Baker: Homes cleared, residents can return to gas disaster evacuation zone

Investigations are ongoing to determine the cause of the blast

A series of gas explosions Thursday killed a teenager, injured about 25 others, damaged dozens of homes and forced the evacuation of thousands in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

Without gas service, many residents in North Andover, Andover, and Lawrence will be without heat, hot water or the ability to cook.

Utility Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co. placed the blame on the failure of a piece of equipment that lowers the pressure of gas from distribution lines so that it can be used in homes, the Tribune said.

"I want to commend the teams of police officers, firefighters and utility workers who worked diligently to meet this morning's goal of reopening all homes in town to residents", Town Manager Flanagan said. "There will be 120 representatives from the utilities out in neighborhoods in the three communities to assist with any questions people may have as they return home".

"We still have a long way to go, but I am so happy that people can return back home this morning", Baker said in a tweet.

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In Chicago in January 1992, a surge of gas was the cause of at least 10 fires and explosions, the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. Vermont Gas is not connected to the system in MA.

Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, one of the affected towns, said of the company, "It just seemed like there's no one in charge, like they're in the weeds, and they've never seen this before". The governor and Columbia Gas of MA president Steve Bryant have quibbled over the utility's level of preparedness. It crashed into a nearby auto, fatally wounding a teenager who was inside. Leonel Rondon, 18, died after a chimney fell on his auto in Lawrence. He died at a hospital, authorities said.

As pressure mounted for gas company officials to provide answers about what happened, Sens.

Columbia Gas Transmission was owned by NiSource until 2015, when the company was spun off into Columbia Pipeline Group.

NiSource is one of the largest natural gas utilities in the United States, serving more than 3.4 million customers in seven states, according to its website.

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