New gas leak in Massachusetts town recovering from explosions

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A new gas leak was reported in the Massachusetts city of Lawrence on Saturday — as it was disclosed that the parent company of local utility Columbia Gas has links to three other firms whose facilities exploded around the country.

In addition to Thursday’s blasts in Lawrence, homes went up in flames in nearby Andover and North Andover.

About 70 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Columbia, which distributes gas to 321,000 local homes and businesses, is owned by an Indiana company called NiSource, USA Today reported.

Over the past six years, gas lines operated by NiSource firms, exploded in another Massachusetts city, Springfield, as well as in West Virginia and Ohio.

Columbia Gas was blasted by Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera.

“Since yesterday … when we first got word of this incident, the least informed and the last to act has been Columbia Gas,’’ he said.

The firm is now seeking a rate hike from Massachusetts regulators, USA Today said. It asked for $44.5 million, but agreed to a $33.2 million in a tentative settlement deal.

One of Thursday’s blasts killed 18-year old Lawrence resident Leonel Rondon, who was sitting in a car that was hit by a chimney blown off a blazing house.

“His family is broken apart,’’ a longtime friend told the Boston Globe.

Another pal, Cassandra Carrion, told the Globe Rondon was a math and biology whiz.

“It’s crazy how this happened. He’d be the one that would be over-protective … and make sure nobody bothered us,’’ she said.

As many as 25 people were injured in the first round of explosions, but a report said only one was still hospitalized.

Meanwhile, ghouls descended on the towns.

Local officials in Lawrence and Andover have gotten calls from people falsely claiming they’re collecting donations for a local firefighters’ organization.

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