Evacuations called for in Ohio city as train wreck smolders

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — A smoldering tangle of dozens of derailed boxcars, some carrying hazardous materials, has kept an evacuation order in effect in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line as environmental officials watch air quality monitors warily.

About 50 cars derailed around 9 p.m. Friday in eastern Palestine as a train was carrying a variety of produce from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said. No injuries were reported to the crew, local residents, or first responders.

Officials from eastern Palestine on Sunday said rescue workers were monitoring the blaze but kept their distance from the blaze, saying clean-up efforts could not begin while cars were smoldering. The evacuation covers a mile radius, officials said.

Mayor Trent Conaway, who declared a state of emergency in the village, said one person was arrested for bypassing barricades before crashing in the night. He warned that more arrests would follow if people didn’t stay away.

“I don’t know why anyone would want to be up there; You’re breathing toxic fumes when you’re that close,” he said, stressing that air quality monitors away from the fire showed no concern and the city’s water is safe as it is fed by groundwater fed by material that has gone is, unaffected is in torrents. Environmental Protection Agency officials worked to remove pollutants from rivers and monitor water quality.

Fire Chief Keith Drabick said it was so important to avoid the area “because a train carrying hazardous material was wrecked in the city and is on fire. It’s that easy.”

Sheriffs went door-to-door on Sunday to count the remaining residents and urged people in the evacuation area to leave the area. “We are asking residents to please evacuate and cooperate,” officials said in a statement. Schools and village offices will be closed on Monday and officials would decide this afternoon whether to extend the school closure.

Norfolk Southern said 20 of the more than 100 cars had been classified as hazardous materials – defined as cargo that could pose any type of hazard, “including flammable, combustible materials or environmental hazards.” A few cars were transporting vinyl chloride, and at least one “intermittently” discharged its contents through a pressure-relief device.

The National Transportation Safety Board said only 10 cars carrying hazardous materials derailed and five of them were transporting vinyl chloride, not 14 as previously said. And officials reiterated late Saturday that they had not confirmed the release of vinyl chloride other than from pressure relief devices working as designed.

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

The evacuation order affected homes for 1,500 to 2,000 of the city’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. Norfolk Southern opened a support 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.

https://www.abc27.com/pennsylvania/evacuations-urged-in-ohio-town-as-train-wreck-smolders/ Evacuations called for in Ohio city as train wreck smolders

Brian Ashcraft

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