Columbia Gas Provides Thanksgiving Meals to Gas Disaster Victims

The utility behind September's natural gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley is serving up Thanksgiving dinners to residents still without heat or hot water in their homes.

Columbia Gas says the roughly 20,000 meals they're providing Thursday will be served at temporary trailer parks set up in the affected communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover where some residents are being housed.

They'll also be distributed at the Lawrence Elks Lodge and three other locations for takeout.

"We just got heat and hot water back," said Joe O’Neil, of Lawrence, who picked up a boxed dinner. "We're really happy to get gas back. We know that a lot of people worked long and hard."

Other Lawrence residents like Megan Stewart aren't as lucky.

"It’s freezing," Stewart said. "Right now, the generator's not working, so we don’t have any heat at the moment. They're coming to fix that again."

Columbia Gas said crews have restored gas service to about 75 percent of the roughly 8,000 homes impacted by the explosions.

The company said it expects to restore gas service to all customers by its self-imposed Dec. 16 deadline, which was set after it missed the original Nov. 19 deadline.

"I'm very confident we're going to meet that date," said Columbia Gas spokesperson Scott Ferson.

About 7,500 people are currently in trailers or other temporary housing.

The Sept. 13 disaster killed one person, injured dozens more and destroyed or damaged more than 100 homes. Thousands of homes and businesses also lost gas service.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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