A train derailment and resulting massive fire prompted an evacuation order and a declaration of a state of emergency in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line, blanketing the area in clouds of orange smoke lit by the flames.
Some 50 railcars derailed in eastern Palestine as a train was carrying a variety of cargo from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said in a statement Saturday.
There was no immediate information on what caused the derailment. No injuries were reported. Mayor Trent Conaway of the East Palestine village declared a state of emergency, citing a “hazardous materials train derailment.”
Air quality was being monitored in a one-mile zone ordered to evacuate and there were no dangerous readings to report, he said. Norfolk Southern said the train was carrying more than 100 cars, 20 of which were classified as carrying hazardous materials, defined as cargo that could pose any type of hazard “including flammable, combustible or environmental hazards.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday it was “launching a team to investigate” the derailment, and board member Michael Graham would “serve as a spokesperson on the scene.”
Firefighters had been withdrawn from the immediate area and unmanned blasting devices are being used protectively as crews try to determine which cars were still actively burning, village officials said in a separate statement Saturday that warned residents they could hear more explosions as the fire burns.
A high school and community center were opened to house dozens of people, while residents beyond that radius were urged to stay inside. The few dozen residents who took refuge at the high school included Ann McAnlis, who said a neighbor had texted her about the crash.
“He took a picture of the glow in the sky from the front porch,” McAnlis told WFMJ-TV. “That’s when I knew how substantial this was.” Conaway said firefighters from three states responded. The derailment occurred about 82 kilometers northwest of Pittsburgh and 32 kilometers from the tip of the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.
Subzero temperatures in the single digits complicated the response, as the water being pumped from the trucks froze, he said.
Norfolk Southern noted that it has staff on site coordinating with first responders. The fire generated so much smoke that meteorologists in the region said it was visible on weather radar.
Source: VOA Español