About 200 people were evacuated and the mayor declared a state of emergency Friday when a series of underground explosions ripped through this seacoast city. No injuries were reported.

"I heard a loud explosion. I looked out, the sewer manhole cover blew off the ground," said merchant Patricia Genest. "None of us knew what was going on at all. People were running away from sewers and manhole covers.""It sounded like bombs going off. It was one manhole right after the other," said gas station owner John Curley. The explosions took place about a quarter mile from the city's downtown and not far from a famous statue of a fisherman.

The explosions apparently were caused by gasoline in the sewer system, said fire department spokesman Clarence Rudolph.

Mayor William Squillace declared a state of emergency at 5:30 p.m.

"They're going to call in everybody that they have - the rest of the fire department and the rest of the police department," said police Sgt. Jerry Cook.

"We had a series of underground explosions - about 10 right in a row - and now they're evacuating the area and it's causing a major traffic jam," said Officer Merrill Newman. "The telephone just lit up like a Christmas tree, and people were almost hysterical."

Gloucester Fire Capt. Louis Aiello said six trucks responded to the alarms.

The source of the gasoline suspected in the explosions "was definitely a business," Rudolph said, but he declined to name the company pending confirmation by investigators.

Smoke and some flames were visible after the explosions, but officials said any fires in the sewer system apparently extinguished themselves.

A strong smell of gasoline hovered in the area hours after the ex-plosions.

While police earlier said hundreds of people were evacuated from a 10-block area to a school, Rudolph said only 200 people were evacuated from a four-block area near downtown.