LATEST: Natural gas line explosion leads to evacuations in western Pennsylvania town

NORWICH, CT (WFSB) — Norwich Public Utilities and Eversource are sending help to Massachusetts to assist with the repose to a series of natural gas explosions that happened on Thursday.

NPU is sending 13 employees and Eversource is sending 133 people and equipment to assist.

Both companies announced their contribution to the effort on Friday.

The explosions forced thousands of evacuations in the Massachusetts towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Reports indicated that there were between 60 and 80 fires with 40 homes damaged.

The National Transportation Safety Board is helping to figure out the cause.

The communities are served by Columbia Gas.

Columbia Gas said that 8,600 individual natural gas meters had to be shut off and inspected after the incident.

Friday morning, more than 5,000 meters still needed to be addressed.

Eversource said that their systems are not connected to the Columbia Gas system.

Columbia gas requested 500 workers and dozens of supervisors from other gas companies to help.

“NPU is ready and willing to respond to this unprecedented event in Massachusetts, sending a number of our talented personnel to assist with this critical work,” said John Bilda, general manager, NPU. “NPU’s track record of helping those in need – whenever and wherever we can – is a source of great pride for the men and women of our organization.”

NPU said its assistance in inspection phase of the response will last through the weekend. Once all of the natural gas services have been shut off and inspected, the process of purging the system and reconnecting customers can begin. It said it is work that can only take place once the safety of the natural gas system in all three communities can be assured.

The 13 NPU employees planned to depart for Massachusetts at noon on Friday.

Eversource said they conducted a safety “stand down” on Friday morning with all of their gas crews to reinforce their commitment to safety and their gas operating procedures.

“Our hearts go out to our neighbors and everyone affected by this tragic event and we are thankful for the first responders. We are sending gas crews and equipment to support those communities and Columbia Gas – including 133 people, two emergency communications trailers and a mobile command unit. Our top priority is the safety of the public, our customers and our employees, and while we are sending support teams, we continue to retain the resources we need to serve our customers,” said Eversource President Bill Akley.

(CNN) — Dozens of people were evacuated early Monday after a natural gas line explosion in a small western Pennsylvania community.

There were no injuries as a result of the blast shortly before 5 a.m. ET in Center Township in Beaver County, police Chief Barry Kramer said. However, he said, “The main goal was to evacuate.”

Dramatic video of a subsequent fire was widely shared on social media, with footage of the flames lighting up the sky.

“The entire sky was orange,” resident Chelsea Guthrie told CNN. “The flames were coming up about 10 or 15 feet above the tree line.”

The utility company had shut off the line by 5:52 a.m., Kramer said, allowing first responders to get a closer look. “There was damage to a house, garage and vehicles,” he said.

The Dallas-based Energy Transfer, the owner and operator of the line, told CNN a monitoring system triggered the closing of valves to isolate the line, allowing the fire to extinguish itself by about 7 a.m.

“All of the appropriate regulatory notifications have been made,” a statement from the utility company said. “We do not know the cause of the incident at this time, however, a thorough investigation will be conducted.”

A reverse 911 system was used to call and evacuate people in up to 30 homes as a precaution. Some evacuated residents had to seek temporary shelter in a nearby fire hall and were cared for by the American Red Cross.

Police reported that schools in the area have been closed for the day. Authorities said residents will be safe to return their homes as soon as Energy Transfer gives the all-clear.

Center Township, a community of around 12,000 people, is about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

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