Train Derailment in Ohio Sparks Huge Fire and Prompts Evacuations
A derailment sparked a massive fire that broke out in eastern Ohio on Friday night, prompting officials to order about half of the town’s residents to evacuate as crews assess whether the cargo contains hazardous materials or not, the authorities said.
About 50 vehicles derailed around 9 p.m. in East Palestine, Ohio, which has 4,700 residents and is about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa.
On Saturday, local and federal officials and Norfolk Southern, the railroad operator, were still investigating the cause of the derailment, which led to a fire that engulfed much of the town in smoke and glowed red. up the houses in the area during the night.
Trent Conaway, the mayor of East Palestine, said at a news conference on Saturday that there were no reports of injuries or deaths. However, officials said 1,500 to 2,000 residents were told to evacuate the area near the tracks.
Video And image of the fire showed smoke rising during the night as ambulances rushed to the scene. On Saturday morning, several carriages continued to burn, creating plumes of gray smoke across East Palestine. Officials said there were several explosions, including several on Saturday morning.
It is not clear how many carriages were on fire.
Keith A. Drabick, director of the East Palestine Fire Department, said Saturday that officials have been monitoring the air quality and “so far, everything is good.”
However, he added, authorities were still unsure whether burning the material was dangerous. He noted that the train traveling from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Pa., was carrying a number of potentially hazardous materials.
“If you have to go to East Palestine – don’t,” said Sheriff Drabick. “Please stay away from this area until we can alleviate the situation.”
The possible product that investigators are most worried about about burning, he said, is vinyl chlorideA colorless and flammable gas that is toxic to humans.
Sheriff Drabick said: “The wagon carrying that thing was doing its job. “The safety feature of that wagon is still active.”
He said drones were deployed to the site on Saturday to determine what was on fire.
Officials said the plan for Saturday was to let the carriages burn and put out the fire after Norfolk Southern workers deemed it safe.
Sheriff Drabick said he has no estimate of when that will happen. Norfolk Southern did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Saturday.
National Traffic Safety Committee speak it will investigate. An NTSB team is expected to be in East Palestine on Saturday.
The widespread fire sent more than two dozen agencies from other countries to East Palestine to help with containment and investigation. Firefighters from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia were also present.
Officials said the main concern on Saturday was the possibility of poor air quality. Mr Conaway, who has declared a state of emergency in the community, said he lives on the edge of town and it smells “horrible”.
“Check your family members if they have breathing problems,” he said. “You might want to get them out of here.”