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'Under No Circumstances' Should Merrimack Valley Residents Turn Gas Back On

BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is urging residents of the Merrimack Valley not to turn their own gas back on a day after dozens of explosions and fires destroyed homes in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover and killed one person.

Merrimack Valley Explosions: What We Know

Baker said the state is providing "every resource available" after an over-pressurized gas line triggered more than 60 fires and explosions Thursday afternoon. An 18-year-old driver was killed when a home in Lawrence blew up and part of a chimney crushed his SUV.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren look at the SUV an 18-year-old was sitting in when the home's chimney fell, killing him (WBZ-TV | Christina Hager)

Teams consisting of gas technicians, firefighters and police officers have been going door-to-door to make sure the gas is shut off to about 8,500 meters in homes and businesses. Anyone whose gas has been shut off should call Columbia Gas to have it returned to service.

"Under no circumstances should you turn the gas back on," said MEMA director Kurt Schwartz.

Merrimack Valley Explosions gas meter check columbia gas
A Columbia Gas worker checks a gas meter, September 14, 2018. (WBZ-TV)

"This will not be an easy process and we ask for continued patience," Baker said at a news conference Friday morning.

Read: List Of Streets Where Emergency Crews Will Visit

Read: Andover Safe Streets List

Read: North Andover Safe Streets List

The governor said once the area is rendered safe, the focus will turn to investigating exactly "what occurred and who should be held accountable." An NTSB team is arrived in the area around Friday afternoon to begin its investigation.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said people in South Lawrence cannot to return to their houses until they receive word that it's safe.

"We are not allowing residents back into their homes," Rivera said. "We need to clear homes of gas, we need to clear homes of possible dangers."

Related: Some Residents Cleared To Return Home After Merrimack Valley Evacuations

If a customer smells an odor of natural gas, they should leave the area immediately, move to a safe location, call 911 and the Columbia Gas emergency number at 1-800-525-8222.

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