A series of gas explosions tore through several Massachusetts communities Thursday, setting numerous homes on fire and forcing evacuations in at least three towns.
Following reports of between 60 and 100 fires, state police ordered residents of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover to leave their homes, even if there was not an odor of gas.
Massachusetts State Police say troopers have been dispatched to secure the affected areas and help traffic snarled by panicked residents fleeing their neighborhoods during the evening rush hour. Some off-ramp highway exits have been closed to aid in the evacuation.
Lawrence General Hospital is treating four injured patients.
"We are in emergency management activation mode and are ready for any more that come," said Jill McDonald Halsey, Chief of Marketing and Communication.
The cause of the explosions wasn’t immediately clear.
The Columbia Gas company had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. Gas lines are currently being depressurized and the electric company, National Grid, announced it will cut off all electricity in affected areas.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issued a statement urging residents "to heed instructions from local officials for important public safety announcements, including evacuations and suspending gas usage."