A series of gas explosions has ignited fires in dozens of homes in Massachusetts – killing one person and injuring at least 12 others.
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, with a ruptured gas pipeline being blamed.
Streets were plunged into darkness as electricity lines were disabled to prevent further damage.
It looked like Armageddon, it really did, Andover fire chief Michael Mansfield told reporters.
There were billows of smoke coming from Lawrence behind me. I could see pillars of smoke in front of me from the town of Andover.
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 blasts on over-pressurised gas lines.
Foul play is not suspected.
Customers with Columbia Gas have been primarily affected. Hours before the explosions, the company had unveiled plans to upgrade gas lines across Massachusetts, including in the areas where the blasts happened.
It is not clear whether maintenance work was happening at the time of the blasts.