MA officials briefing on gas explosion latest

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It is now safe for thousands of MA residents to return to their homes, authorities said, three days after gas leaks touched off a series of surprise explosions and fires that killed one and injured more than 20 others.

Crews have turned off almost 8,600 gas meters in the area.

On Thursday, about 8,500 residents were forced to evacuate from their homes.

A local fire chief described it as an "overwhelming event" that resembled "Armageddon".

Three Massachusetts cities are nearing a critical first step of recovery - ensuring homes are safe and have power - after a deadly series of fires and explosions last week, Gov. Charlie Baker said.

At least 25 people were treated for injuries.

It appeared yesterday that faulty pressure in the Columbia Gas mains may have caused the explosions, which set 60 houses alight in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence, north of Boston, on Thursday.

They said some residents in Lawrence and Andover have received calls from individuals falsely claiming they're collecting donations on behalf of a local firefighters' association for the disaster.

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Almost all residents in the area have had power restored, he said.

The CEO for the parent company of Columbia Gas said at a Sunday press conference that the organization is fully cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine what caused devastating fires and explosions in the Merrimack Valley.

Jeff Hall, spokesman for the Red Cross, said Friday there were nearly 400 people shelters after the Thursday night explosions and fires. No one at PHMSA could immediately be reached for comment Friday on details of the MA explosions.

Mayor Daniel Rivera of Lawrence, one of the affected towns, said of the company, "It just seemed like there's no one in charge, like they're in the weeds, and they've never seen this before".

Federal and state officials are investigating. Leonel Rondon, 18, and two of his friends were in the auto when the debris struck, his family told CNN affiliate WHDH. They say their system is up to date, modern and created to ensure that when gas flows into a customer's home, it's flowing at the appropriate pressure.

Gas service is not being restored at this time.

Columbia Gas Transmission was owned by NiSource until 2015, when the company was spun off into Columbia Pipeline Group. The company a subsidiary of NiSource, a utility company that serves more than three million customers in seven states.

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