Sept. 21--Massachusetts officials announced Friday an expected date for full utilities to be restored to Merrimack Valley residents following the gas-related explosions earlier this month.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday that he has activated the National Guard to support recovery efforts.
Starting Saturday, units will be dispatched to Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to provide 7,000 hot plates to residents "so they can have a hot meal at home," Baker said Friday.
Additionally, 24,000 space heaters will also be provided starting Monday to residents of homes certified safe by officials, to allow for heat in homes before temperatures begin to dip into low temperatures.
Power is expected to be restored to all homes and workplaces in the three Massachusetts communities impacted by Nov. 19, NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock said in a statement released Friday. NiSource is the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts.
Before the mid-November target date, 48 miles of pipeline in the region must be updated.
Columbia Gas was criticized for its response to the disaster, both for delayed communication with residents and public officials as well as the number of crews deployed to the region in hours immediately following. A day after the explosion, Baker appointed Eversource the project manager of recovery efforts.
On Friday, he announced another overseer. Joseph Albanese, a retired navy captain, will oversee Columbia's reconstruction efforts.
Hamrock said the company is working to rebuild trust with their customers.
"Many people are still hurting in the wake of last week's disaster," Hamrock said. "We owe it to this community to fully address the community's needs and rebuild your trust in us."
Baker thanked residents for their patience and said, "The road to recovery will take time." The governor has spent a significant amount of time in the Merrimack Valley following the explosions.
Explosions in pipes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover caused upwards of 70 fires, injured more than two dozen people and resulted in the death of an 18-year-old from Lawrence, who died after a chimney fell on his vehicle. Homes in each community were evacuated on Sept. 13.
While residents whose homes remained structurally safe were allowed to return home in days following the explosions, thousands remain without utilities.
The first class-action lawsuit was filed against Columbia Gas on behalf of residents impacted this week.
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