Pipelines exploded with the force of bombs, setting homes ablaze in Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts. Columbia Gas, the local gas utility, had allowed too much pressure to build up in its aging cast-iron pipes until finally, they erupted in a series of blasts that injured more than 20 people and killed one, Leonol Rondon, an 18-year-old who had just passed his driving test. He had pulled up to a friend’s driveway to share the good news when an explosion under the house toppled the chimney, which crushed him in the driver’s seat.
“It looked like a war zone,” said Walter Mena, a Merrimack Valley resident. “I come from El Salvador, where we were at war in the 1980s. It reminded me of that.”