Massachusetts State Police said a total of 70 fires, explosions or investigations of gas odor had been reported. Columbia Gas of MA, the NiSource unit responsible for the local network, said in a statement that its crews would need to visit each of the 8,600 affected customers to shut off each gas meter and carry out a safety inspection.
As the sun rose Friday, residents looked over damaged homes that were either blasted by explosions or consumed by flames.
Neighborhoods were evacuated in northern Massachusetts Thursday following a series of explosions and fires apparently caused by a faulty gas line.
Several people have reportedly been hospitalized, some in critical condition, because of the fires.
By late Thursday, all of the fires had been doused but many areas remained silent and dark after residents fled and power companies cut electricity to prevent further fires.
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Officials in all three areas said school will be canceled on Friday.
A building burns after explosions in Lawrence, Mass., in this Thursday photo from social media by Boston Sparks.
Officials in Andover, a town of 35,000 residents had advised all residents and businesses to evacuate and to shut off their gas, if they know how to safely.
The three communities house more than 146,000 residents about 40km north of Boston, near the New Hampshire border.
"Incidents are across a wide swath of dozens of blocks across Lawrence and North Andover", state police said via Twitter.
When he ran downstairs and saw the boiler on fire, he quickly grabbed a fire extinguisher and put it out.
A man whose neighbourhood was among dozens that erupted in fire says he ran into his basement to find that the room was glowing. Minutes later, a loud boom came from his neighbor's home.
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She and her husband would decide Tuesday morning whether to evacuate their family of two kids and a dog, said LaRoche. Charlotte, North Carolina could take a direct hit, according to the National Weather Service.
"We took off. I said, 'Pack up, we're out of here,"' said Charest, who went with her 93-year old father and cat to a relative's home.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said staff members were heading to Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, along with state fire investigators.
State police received between 60 and 100 reports of fires and gas explosions in the Merrimack region.
Columbia had announced earlier on Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighbourhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not return calls.
Boston: A man was killed while several others were injured after a series of explosions and fires rocked around 40 homes and businesses in three towns in MA on Thursday, according to the Essex County District Attorney's office.
The November 2012 explosion in Springfield, Massachusetts, was caused when a Columbia employee accidentally punctured a gas line while probing for a leak.
North Andover police drove through the downtown area broadcasting over their public address systems urging people to leave their homes if they smell gas.
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Management for the American Gas Association (AGA), which represents more than 200 companies that deliver gas throughout the United States, said, "Our hearts go out to those who are suffering and have lost loved ones and homes as a result of the tragic incidents in MA".