A series of gas explosions has ignited fires in dozens of homes in Massachusetts – injuring at least six people.
Police urged residents in three towns north of Boston to evacuate, as emergency crews tackled the fires and scrambled to turn off gas lines.
The explosions caused widespread confusion and panic as officials and homeowners alike struggled to understand what was happening – with some worrying whether their properties would be next.
There have been at least 70 explosions in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, and a ruptured gas pipeline is being blamed.
Streets were plunged into darkness as electricity lines were disabled to prevent further damage.
Ra Nam, who lives in Lawrence, was in his garden when smoke alarms in the basement went off on Thursday evening.
He ran downstairs and discovered his boiler on fire – and minutes later, he heard a loud boom from his neighbour’s house, causing the ground to shake.
Another Lawrence resident, Bruce Razin, said the house two doors down from where he lived had been levelled from an explosion.
“I couldn’t imagine if that was my house,” he said. “It’s total destruction. I’d be completely devastated.”
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has blamed the first on overpressurised gas lines, and foul play is not suspected.
Customers with Columbia Gas have been primarily affected – and hours before the explosions, the company had unveiled plans to upgrade gas lines across Massachusetts, including in the areas where the explosions happened.
It is not clear whether maintenance work was happening at the time of the blasts.