50 trains derailed, blaze, evacuated in Ohio

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A freight train derailed in Ohio near the Pennsylvania border on Saturday as authorities launched a federal investigation to monitor air quality from various toxic chemicals in the train. A miserably charred wagon and flames were left behind.

About 50 cars derailed around 9 p.m. Friday in eastern Palestine as the train was carrying a variety of goods from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said Saturday. . There was no immediate information about the cause of the derailment. No injuries or damage to structures have been reported.

“The post-derailment fire spanned the entire length of the derailed train,” Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told reporters on Saturday night. “The fire has since abated but remains active and the two main tracks are still blocked.”

Norfolk Southern said 20 of its 100-plus vehicles were classified as carrying hazardous materials. At least one was “intermittently venting its contents through a pressure relief device as designed,” he said.

“At the moment, we are working to confirm which vehicles of hazardous substances were compromised,” he said. The Environmental Protection Agency and Norfolk Southern continue to monitor air quality, and investigators will begin work on the site “once it’s safe and secure,” he said.

According to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride, which is used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin used in a variety of plastic products, is associated with an increased risk of liver and other cancers. Federal officials said they were also concerned about other potentially harmful substances.

Mayor Trent Conaway, who previously declared a state of emergency over “a train derailed by a hazardous material,” said air quality monitors throughout the 1-mile zone ordered to evacuate did not show unsafe readings.

Fire Chief Keith Dravik said officials were most concerned about vinyl chloride and mentioned one vehicle containing the chemical, but said the vehicle’s safety features were still working. Paramedics kept their distance until Norfolk Southern officials told them it was safe to approach, Dravik said.

“When they say it’s time to go in and put out the fire, my men will come in and put out the fire,” he said. He said the car also had other chemicals and authorities would ask Southern Norfolk and federal officials for a list.

Graham said the Safety Commission team will focus on collecting “perishable” information on the derailment of the train, which has 141 laden carriages, 9 empty carriages and 3 locomotives. State police have aerial photography and locomotives have forward-facing image and data recorders that can provide information such as train speed, throttle position and brake application, he said. Train crew and other witnesses will also be interviewed, Graham said.

Firefighters were evacuated from nearby areas and unmanned streams were used to protect several areas, including businesses that may have contained material for concern, officials said. Conaway said subzero single-digit temperatures complicated the response, as trucks pumping water froze.

East Palestinian officials have reported 68 counties from three states and a number of counties to the derailment, which occurred about 51 miles (82 kilometers) northwest of Pittsburgh and within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the tip of the Northern Panhandle in West Virginia. agency said it responded.

Conaway said aerial surveillance showed “the cars were entangled” and the fire was still burning as officials tried to determine what was in each car from labels outside. A large amount of smoke continues to rise from the scene.The warning remains in effect until further notice, officials said.

Village officials warned residents that an explosion from the fire could be heard. They said the water was safe to drink, despite discoloration due to the amount pumped to fight the blazes. Officials said they are working to keep it from flowing.

Officials repeatedly urged people not to come to the scene, saying they were putting themselves and emergency responders at risk.

The evacuation zone covered 1,500 to 2,000 of the town’s 4,800 to 4,900 residents, but it was unclear how many were actually affected, Conaway said. A high school and community center were opened, and dozens of residents who had taken refuge in the high school included Anne McCanlis, who said her neighbor texted her about her crash.

“She took a picture of the glow in the sky from her front porch,” McAnlis told WFMJ-TV. “That’s when I realized how important this was.”

Norfolk Southern has opened a support center in the village to collect information from affected residents and “supports the efforts of the American Red Cross and its temporary community shelter through a donation of $25,000.

Elizabeth Parker Shelley says her 19-year-old son is heading to Walmart to get a new TV in time for the Super Bowl, and she’s waiting to see flames and black smoke billow outside her house. She messaged her mother to get out of the house next to the railroad tracks, but the crew went door-to-door telling people to leave the evacuation zone, so the three and her daughter went to their own homes. had to leave