Freight train cars kept burning on February 4, sending up a lot of smoke, after they derailed and caused an evacuation order and a state of emergency in a village in Ohio near the state line with Pennsylvania.
About 50 cars on a train going from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, went off the tracks in East Palestine around 9 p.m. EDT Friday, the rail company Norfolk Southern said Saturday. No one knew right away what caused the train to go off the tracks. No one was hurt and no buildings were damaged.
The village of East Palestine’s mayor, Trent Conaway, declared a state of emergency because a train carrying dangerous materials had derailed. He said that the air quality was being checked in a one-mile area that had to be evacuated, and that there had been no dangerous readings to report.
Norfolk Southern said the train had more than 100 cars, and 20 of them were carrying hazardous materials. Hazardous materials are goods that could be dangerous in any way, such as being flammable, combustible, or harmful to the environment.
Officials were most worried about a shipment of the chemical vinyl chloride, but the rail car carrying it still had all of its safety features working. He said, “The train car that was carrying it is doing its job.”
The National Cancer Institute of the United States says that vinyl chloride, which is used to make polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin used in many plastic products, is linked to an increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers.
Drabick said that emergency crews would stay far away until rail officials told them it was safe to get close. “When they say it’s time for my guys to go in and put out the fire, they will,” he said. He also said that there were other chemicals in the cars and that officials would ask Norfolk Southern and the federal government for a list.
Officials said that firefighters were pulled out of the area and that unmanned streams were used to protect some areas, including businesses that might have also had dangerous materials. Conaway said that freezing temperatures in the single digits made it hard to help because trucks that were pumping water froze.
Officials said that 68 agencies from three states and a number of counties responded to the derailment, which happened about 51 miles (82 kilometres) northwest of Pittsburgh and within 20 miles (32 kilometres) of the tip of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday that it was “launching a go-team to investigate” the derailment, and that board member Michael Graham would “serve as a spokesperson on the scene.”
Conaway said that surveillance from the air showed “a tangle of cars” with fires still burning and heavy smoke still coming from the scene as officials tried to figure out what was in each car by looking at the labels on the outside. Officials said that the order to leave and the warning to stay put would stay in place until further notice.
Officials in the village told the people that because of the fire, they might hear explosions. They said the water was safe to drink even though it looked dirty because of how much was being pumped to fight the fire. Some runoff had been found in streams, but officials said that they were working to stop it and stop it from going downstream.
Officials told people over and over again not to go to the scene because they would put themselves and emergency workers in danger.
Conaway said that 1,500 to 2,000 of the town’s 4,800 to 4,900 residents were in the evacuation area, but it was unclear how many people were actually affected. A high school and a community centre were used as shelters. Ann McAnlis, who was one of the few dozen people taking shelter at the high school, said that a neighbour had texted her about the crash.
McAnlis told WFMJ-TV, “She took a picture of the glow in the sky from the front porch.” “At that point, I realised how important this was.” Norfolk Southern set up a help centre in the village so that people who were affected could give them information.
Elizabeth Parker Sherry said that her 19-year-old son was on his way to Walmart to buy a new TV for the Super Bowl when he called her outside to show her the flames and black smoke coming toward their house. She said she told her mother to leave her house next to the train tracks, but they all had to leave their homes at the same time because crews were going door-to-door to tell people to leave the evacuation zone.
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings