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The Latest: Pressure sensors focus of gas explosions probe

The house owned by Lawrence Police Officer Ivan Soto sits nearly burned to the ground on Jefferson Street, in Lawrence, Mass., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. It was one of multiple houses that went up in flames on Thursday afternoon after gas explosions and fires triggered by a problem with a gas line that feeds homes in several communities north of Boston. After rushing home to check on his family and warn his neighbors to evacuate, Soto went back on patrol while his house was burning down. (AP Photo/Bob Salsberg)

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — The Latest on the natural gas explosions in Massachusetts (all times local):

5:10 p.m.

Federal officials say the investigation into the Boston-area natural gas explosions is partially focused on pressure sensors that were connected to a gas line that was being taken out of service shortly before the blasts.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Robert Sumwalt said Sunday that the sensors can signal for gas pressure to be increased if the pressure gets too low. He said investigators will try to determine whether those sensors played any role in Thursday’s explosions and fires.

Dozens of homes were destroyed or damaged, a teenager was killed and dozens of people were injured in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

Officials say it appears there was too much pressure in Columbia Gas’ pipelines. The gas company also is investigating.

Gas was turned off and residents were allowed to return to their homes Sunday.

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10:38 a.m.

Residents in communities north of Boston that were rocked by natural gas explosions have been given the green light to return to their homes.

Gov. Charlie Baker and other officials announced Sunday morning that people in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover were cleared to return home. Electricity was restored to nearly all homes and businesses, but gas service will remain shut off while officials continue investigating what caused Thursday’s explosions and fires.

Dozens of homes were destroyed or damaged, a teenager was killed and dozens of people were injured. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate.

Officials said it appeared Columbia Gas’ pipeline control center in Columbus, Ohio, registered a pressure increase in the Lawrence area before the explosions.

Crews have turned off nearly 8,600 gas meters in the area.

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