BOSTON (CBS) – Thousands of residents of South Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were told to evacuate their homes Thursday, when a major issue with a gas line led to dozens of explosions and fires. Residents received automated emergency phone calls urging them to leave their homes. Power was being shut off to the entire communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Evacuations

All Columbia Gas customers in South Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were told to evacuate their homes. Red Cross reception centers were setup at the Andover Senior Center and Youth Center, North Andover High School, as well as Parthum and Arlington Schools in Lawrence.

What To Do About Natural Gas Service

Early in the evening, Columbia Gas customers were urged to turn off the gas service to their homes. Gas shutoff valves can be found on the pipe leading from the ground to your gas meter, or on the service line between the meter and the home.

Later Thursday night, Columbia Gas issued a statement asking people not to turn off their own gas, and not to open windows to ventilate.

Teams consisting of gas technicians, fire and police personnel were going door-to-door to make sure the gas is shut off to about 8,600 meters.

Once gas service is turned off, do not turn it back on unless instructed by emergency personnel.

Don’t Use Electronics or Candles

Any electric sparks or open flames can ignite natural gas in the air. If you have power and smell gas, do not turn any electric appliances on or off. Refrain from using your home phone, cell phone or a flashlight if you smell gas.

Monitor Emergency Information

Updates on gas service, electric service and shelters are being provided by various town emergency departments on Twitter. North Andover Twitter | Lawrence Twitter | Andover Twitter. You can also call 211 for updates.

We will be providing the latest information on WBZ-TV, CBSBoston.com and the WBZ social media channels.

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