Lawrence, Massachusetts — Friday The Washington Post reported that the Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker (R) “declared a state of emergency,” after Thursday’s blasts, that “led to scores of simultaneous structure fires.”
The gas explosions across Merrimack Valley, have left one person dead, and at least twenty-three people injured.
Amid growing outrage over the lack of answers or actions from Columbia Gas, which owns the gas lines involved in the blast Governor Baker has called in “another utility to handle the response,” The Boston Globe reported Friday.
The announcement came during an early Friday press conference in which Baker said via the Globe article, that he believes putting Eversource in charge of ensuring the communities of Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, are safe to return to their homes will “make a big difference with respect to the relationship between what gets told to us and to what actually happens on the ground, and the representations that are made to people in these three communities, so we can do everything we can to ensure their homes and communities are safe.”
Daniel Rivera, Mayor of Lawrence expressed outrage over Columbia Gas’ response so far stating in the press conference, “Since yesterday — since yesterday — when we first got word of this incident, the least informed and the last to act has been Columbia Gas.”
National Transportation Safety Board arrived Friday to investigate the cause of the fire, the chairman of NTSB, Robert Sumwalt told the Globe the goal of the investigation, “is to find out what happened so we can learn from it and keep it from happening again.”
The Boston Globe article explains that as of Friday afternoon that hundreds of officials and utility workers had started going from “house to house to shut of gas meters and conduct safety checks.”
8600 homes and businesses have been evacuated across the three affected communities, eighty buildings burned, and thirteen people had been treated, with one person undergoing surgery Friday afternoon at Lawrence General Hospital.
Officials believe the fires and explosions were caused by “overpressurized gas lines,” but they do caution that the investigation is just beginning.
Columbia Gas had told residents of the affected areas that they were upgrading equipment prior to the explosions. The President and chief operating officer for Columbia Gas speaking for the first time publicly told the Globe, “Generally, I would say we have advanced this as rapidly as it could possibly be advanced. I don’t think that anybody else managing this would have been further down the road than we are at the moment.” He also sent his condolences to the family of the eighteen year old victim that died as result of the explosion.
Democrat Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren have called on congress to hold a hearing on the disaster telling the Globe while they visited the Lawrence command center that regulators and Columbia Gas must explain, “how this incident occurred and what must be done to ensure these types of dangerous accidents do not happen again.”
For what it’s worth, according to the Boston Globe, in 2012, Columbia Gas was responsible for another explosion that occurred in a “Springfield adult entertainment club.” The explosion left eighteen injured, blamed on a worker who “punctured a gas line while checking for a leak.” Columbia Gas settled with the city and agreed to pay the “City of Springfield $850,000.”
Press conference with the Governor and Mayor.