MA incineration zone goes live on social media, to the shock of viewers
Updated: Sep 17, 2018
ECHO Action Team, Activist Echoes Editor
"20 houses simultaneously exploded!"
Those words and a link to the Eagle Tribune's "1 dead, at least 10 injured in Merrimack Valley gas disaster", was the head's up a journalist friend sent me to the catastrophic gas-blast pipeline failure in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover Massachusetts. Things were moving so fast, the information was already outdated when I read it.
After an initial, "Holy ***t!", I started scanning the best live feed, which was actually on a Southern news station that had been reporting the hurricane in the Carolinas when it went to dual feed. The elliptical spin of the hurricane on radar was in the lower right screen as the live scene in Lawrence, MA unfolded.
The TV station was at the mercy of whatever feed came in to them - nonstop footage from the sky, interspersed with scenes of fires, explosions and first responders on the scene. It was some time before reporters began sharing what was taking place on the ground because half of the city was under a mass evacuation, response and rescue effort.
As the scene unfolded throughout the day, updates came. 70+ incidents. Houses blown off their foundations, burned to the ground, exploded. Stories of neighbors breaking down doors, grabbing pets and leaving the area.
First responders came from all over Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Listening to the emergency feeds gave insight into just how chaotic things were. At one point I heard someone say they weren't even writing down where fire crews were heading because things were happening too fast. No sooner than one fire was addressed, another one popped up or reignited.
Since the explosions began late afternoon, many people were still at work or after-school activities, likely saving countless lives.
By day's end, 3 or 4 shelters were open for the 8,000 reported customers impacted by the "incident". 10 were in the hospital, many from smoke inhalation and some from, "catastrophic blast injuries". Terrifying mental images from a war scene. An 18 year old man was killed in his own driveway when the chimney of his home fell on his car, with him in it.
While all this was going on, there was a frantic effort to get information to pipeline opponents who, all to aware of the dangers, were in shock. Comments included collages of the words, "prayers", "another safe pipeline" and "have you ever seen anything like this?"
As with most pipeline opponents, the daily struggle to educate and motivate impacted communities is real. We raced to respond to dazed citizens, many of whom didn't know something like this could happen.
Some began conversing, questioning the wisdom of the Granite Bridge Pipeline in New Hampshire. One man was angered by the information and removed it from a town group.
All we could do was share news, ask for prayers and provide information about what communities can do going forward - learn more!
Pipeline leaks and explosions happen on old and new pipelines. It appears that yesterday's accident may have been caused by over-pressurization in the pipeline, but time will tell as even the FBI moves in to investigate.
In the meantime, we ask for sensitivity. Even though we are outraged and terrified, we must remember that gas and utility workers are putting themselves at risk alongside first responders, in responding to the emergency. There will be a lot of soul-searching in the days to come, but the gas industry will bounce back. They'll call this an unusual anomaly and claim emergency procedures were in place.
Will we keep talking about this as we continue to push back against Granite Bridge? Of course. We talked about accidents as both hypothetical and as something we report multiple times a week, but what happened in Massachusetts yesterday, our own back yard, seems unprecedented. It's the very thing we work every day towards avoiding.
If you woke up to a nightmarish reality yesterday and are realizing that the fuss about Granite Bridge is something to investigate further, please join us at the Fremont Public Library on Thursday, September 20th from 6-8 pm for a Pipeline Information Presentation.
As we all move forward together, it's important for us to keep in mind that as we transition away from fossil fuels, we'll also escape much of the fear and repercussions of living in the incineration zone.