Dozens of explosions and fires rocked city blocks in several communities north of Boston on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of numerous neighborhoods where gas odors were present, Massachusetts State Police said.
No injuries were reported immediately.
State police bulletins on Twitter said it was too early to speculate on a cause, but local media reports cited the possible rupture of a gas line.
The first explosion was caused by an overpressured gas line, WBZ News reported.
Live television footage showed firefighters on high scales, battling flames engulfing low houses in Lawrence and North Andover, former industrial towns about 40 miles north of Boston.
A map posted on Twitter by state police showed nearly two dozen explosions and fires scattered throughout the area. The state police then calculated the fires and explosions at 39 and said that it was expected to grow.
"We are asking everyone who has gas in their homes to leave their homes until further notice," North Andover village manager Andrew Maylor told a local television station.
The mayor of Lawrence, Dan Rivera, told WBZ: "What we know is that there have been multiple explosions, multiple fires that are happening throughout the city." He said that residents who detect strange smells should leave their homes.
State police urged residents served by the Columbia Gas company to evacuate their homes, saying the company was reducing the pressure on their lines and that it would take "some time" to shut down the entire service.