Huddled in shelters, residents seek answers after dozens of gas fires displace thousands

NORTH ANDOVER, MASS. (WHDH) - Emergency shelters were full of displaced residents in three Massachusetts communities Friday after dozens of gas fires and explosions tore through three Merrimack Valley communities, forcing thousands to evacuate and utilities to turn off the power.

People of all ages crowded into the Andover Senior Center Friday as families looked for answers about their homes and wondered when the widespread evacuations would be over.

“I wish I could just be home,” said Karen Simmonds. “I just want to go home.”

Paige Matthews saved her dog after realizing her basement was on fire.

“I saw right to the bottom of the stairs where the furnace was,” she said. “The entire thing was engulfed in flames. I didn’t even want to look any longer, I was too scared, so I ran out.”

Flames and explosions forced scores of others to take shelter at North Andover High School.

“People knocked on the door and said we’re told to evacuate,” one resident said.

Another family reunited after texting each other from home, school, and work.

“Happy we’re together,” said Hugh Jones. “That’s the most I can say. We’re back together. We’re happy we’re together and just going from there.”

Congressman Seth Moulton, who flew in from Washington, D.C., stopped by the shelter to assess the damage and make sure people were getting the help they needed.

“We’ll do whatever we can,” Moulton said. “My team has been on site here from this afternoon. We’ll continue to be here to support folks however we can and down the road we’ll look to see what we can do about rebuilding.”

For a list of shelters and additional resources, click here.

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