At least 39 gas explosions in a cluster of cities north of Boston have destroyed at least one house, burned others and sent residents fleeing in panic.
Emergency teams are fighting to put out the fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, north of Boston, and the gas and electric lines are shutting down in an attempt to stop further damage.
A natural gas problem was blamed and Columbia Gas was ordered to evacuate the gas supply.
Massachusetts state police say that Columbia Gas is working to depressurize gas lines in the area. A spokeswoman for the company did not comment immediately.
Massachusetts state police say the number of explosions is expected to grow.
Joseph Solomon, the chief of police in nearby Methuen, said Thursday that 20 to 25 houses were on fire, saying there are so many fires that "you can not even see the sky."
The Columbia Gas company had announced on Thursday that it would modernize gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions occurred.
It was not clear if work was happening in the areas on Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not comment on it.
All residents and businesses in Andover have been told to evacuate and shut off their gas supply. The city of 35,000 inhabitants is located about 40 km north of Boston, near the border with New Hampshire.
In neighboring North Andover, the select village Phil Decologero said that his entire neighborhood had gathered on the street, afraid to enter the houses.
He warned anyone with concern to leave their homes and head to North Andover High School, which is establishing itself as a meeting point.
"It's definitely a scary situation right now," he said. "It's pretty severe."
Entire neighborhoods were being evacuated in Lawrence. Councilman Marc Laplante said authorities were disconnecting power and urging residents of the Colonial Heights neighborhood to head to Parthum's elementary and middle schools.
"People need to leave this area safely, and it's really difficult because traffic at this time is terrible," he said.