A series of gas explosions have ripped through homes in three communities north of the US city of Boston, leaving one teenager dead and injuring at least 10 other people.
Authorities compared the scenes to ‘Armageddon’ after fires were ignited in at least 39 homes.
It is thought the blasts may have been caused by over-pressurised gas lines, but authorities are still investigating.
Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, causing widespread chaos.
Schools in all three communities were cancelled for Friday, and some were being used as shelters for residents.
By late Thursday, all of the fires had been put out but many areas remained in darkness after power was cut in the area to prevent further fires.
Authorities said Leonel Rondon, 18, from Lawrence, died in hospital after a chimney toppled by an exploding house crashed into his car.
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Lawrence General Hospital said it was treating 10 victims, including at least one in critical condition.
“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.”
Joseph Solomon, police chief in nearby Methuen, said 20 to 25 homes were on fire in Lawrence when he responded to help and there were so many fires “you can’t even see the sky”.
Aerial footage of the area showed some homes that appeared to be torn apart by blasts. At one, the upper portion of a brick chimney crushed a vehicle parked in the driveway.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had become over-pressurised but said investigators were still examining what happened.
Hours after the explosions, the utility’s parent company issued a brief statement saying its crews were still performing safety checks in the area.
In a statement, NiSource said: “Our thoughts are with everyone affected by today’s incident.
“The first priority for our crews at the scene is to ensure the safety of our customers and the community.”
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