Evacuations urged in an Ohio town as train wreckage caught fire

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A tangle of dozens of derailed freight cars, some carrying hazardous materials, has maintained an evacuation order in effect in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line as environmental authorities watch air quality monitors vigilantly.

Rail operator Norfolk Southern said about 50 cars derailed in eastern Palestine around 9 p.m.riday while a train was carrying a variety of products from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania. No injuries were reported to crew, residents, or first responders.

East Palestine officials said Sunday that emergency responders were monitoring the blaze but were staying away from the blaze, saying repair efforts could not begin as long as the cars were on fire. Officials said the evacuation covered an area of ​​a mile (1.6 km) radius.

Mayor Trent Conway, who declared a state of emergency in the village, said one person was arrested for running around the barricades up to the time of the crash overnight. He warned that more arrests would follow if people did not stay away.

“I don’t know why anyone would want to be there; you’re breathing toxic fumes if you’re that close,” he said, stressing that air quality monitors away from the fire showed no levels of concern and that the town’s water is safe because it is fed by groundwater unaffected by some substances. that was interrupted. in tables. EPA crews have been working to remove pollutants from streams and monitor water quality.

Fire Chief Keith Drabek said it was extremely important to avoid the area “because a train carrying hazardous materials has crashed into the city and it’s burning. It can’t get any simpler than that.”

Sheriffs went house-to-house on Sunday to count remaining residents and urge people within the evacuation zone to leave. “We ask residents to evacuate and cooperate,” officials said in a statement. Schools and village offices will be closed on Monday and officials will decide that afternoon whether to extend the school closure.

Norfolk Southern said 20 of more than 100 vehicles were classified as carrying hazardous materials – defined as cargo that could pose any type of hazard “including flammable or combustible materials or environmental hazards”. Some of the cars carried vinyl chloride, and at least one was “sporadically shooting its contents” via a pressure release device.

The National Transportation Safety Board said only 10 cars carrying derailed hazardous materials and five had vinyl chloride, not 14 as was said earlier. Officials confirmed again late Saturday that they had not confirmed a release of vinyl chloride other than pressure release devices operating as designed.

The vinyl chloride used to make the hard plastic polyvinyl chloride resin in a variety of plastic products is linked to an increased risk of liver and other types of cancer, according to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute. Norfolk Southern was required to provide a fact sheet listing all of the chemicals involved.

The eviction order covered the homes of 1,500 to 2,000 of the town’s 4,800 to 4,900 residents, but officials said it was not known exactly how many were actually affected. About eight residents remained in an emergency shelter. Southern Norfolk opened a help center in the village to collect information from affected residents; Village officials said 75 people went to the center on Saturday and about 100 were there on Sunday morning.