Update On Explosions In Massachusetts
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Three towns in northern Massachusetts are still recovering now two days after gas explosions caused fires in about 70 homes; one person is dead, 30 more are injured. While some residents have been given the all clear, many remain in shelters.
Quincy Walters of member station WBUR reports.
QUINCY WALTERS, BYLINE: On Thursday evening, the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were covered in smoke and darkness. Hundreds of people scrounged for shelters to spend the night. All the power in the area was shut off to prevent more explosions. Waiting for cots at North Andover High School, Ishmael and Merna Carrasquillo were physically uncomfortable and anxious.
ISHMAEL CARRASQUILLO: (Speaking Spanish).
MERNA CARRASQUILLO: He feels sad for the people - he feels sad for the people who had lost their homes.
WALTERS: The Carrasquillos and others in this shelter wondered if their house could be next. Some talked about deciding to evacuate when their neighbor's homes caught fire.
In Lawrence, Julia Holland didn't have to wonder.
JULIA HOLLAND: I was at McDonald's getting a burger, coming over the main bridge that goes into south Lawrence, and my friend calls me and I was on the bridge and all I heard was a loud boom. And he goes, dude, house is gone, and I'm like great.
WALTERS: Holland says she'll have to stay at a shelter for the next couple of days.
A lot of people have been encouraged to stay put. Crews have to individually assess the nearly 9,000 homes served by Columbia Gas.
But as day broke Friday, Nancy Fernandez was crying, saying she didn't have the opportunity to stay in the shelter.
NANCY FERNANDEZ: I'm on my way to work - oh, my God. I'm exhausted. My legs hurt. My blood pressure's high. My kids are uncomfortable, my grandkids, but I need to show up to work.
WALTERS: Fernandez didn't know if her home had been affected, but some people do know that their homes are OK. They just haven't been cleared to stay in them. Others are being allowed to go to their homes to get essentials with police escorts. But some aren't even bothering with waiting around. They're still scarred by the idea that homes in their neighborhoods suddenly caught fire. Carmen Vidal was leaving the shelter in Lawrence. She was going to her sister's place out of town. Vidal says she's unsettled.
CARMEN VIDAL: Because we don't know how this started. There's so many families, so many senior citizens without homes, medicine, comfort.
WALTERS: Vidal's plea to know something, anything, echoes throughout northern Massachusetts. Residents want accountability, and it took Columbia Gas nearly five hours to make an undetailed statement after the first explosion Thursday night.
Governor Charlie Baker aired his frustrations Friday, deeming the gas company ill-equipped to fix the problem.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
CHARLIE BAKER: I certainly believe at this point that is in the best interests of the people of Lawrence and North Andover and Andover for us to get a new team leading this effort and for us to be in a position to do that through the declaration of an emergency.
WALTERS: Baker has chosen another utility to oversee restoration of service. But while that's happening, people really want to know the cause of the explosions that destroyed their peace of mind.
For NPR News, I'm Quincy Walters.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.