A train derailment in a northeastern Ohio village Friday night caused a massive fire that burned through Saturday afternoon, forcing part of the community to evacuate.
Roughly 50 cars being carried by a Norfolk Southern train derailed around 9 p.m. Friday in East Palestine, near the Pennsylvania border. The accident sparked flames that illuminated the pitch black sky and created smoke so thick that meteorologists said it could be seen on the weather radar.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday afternoon that 20 of the 50 cars that derailed contained hazardous materials.
The cause of the derailment has yet to be determined and no injuries were reported so far.
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conway declared a statement of emergency Saturday morning. Air quality also was being monitored in the evacuation zone but there were no dangerous readings, local officials noted.
Norfolk Southern said that the train was heading to Conway, Pennsylvania, from Illinois, and the hazardous materials included “flammables, combustibles, or environmental risks.”
The NTSB said the train had 141 cars total, including three locomotives and nine empty cars, according to KDKA Pittsburgh.
Fire Chief Keith Drabick noted that officials were concerned about a rail car carrying a shipment of the chemical vinyl chloride, which has been linked to increased risk of liver cancer, according to National Cancer Institute, but noted that the safety features of the were still functioning.
Drabick added firefighters were waiting for rail officials to tell them it was safe to approach the cars.
“When they say it’s time to go in and put the fire out, my guys will go in and put the fire out,” he said.
Conway said earlier that firefighters from three states had responded — some 50 different fire departments from throughout the region sent assistance — although temperatures in the single digits that caused water pumped from trucks to freeze complicated efforts to battle the blaze.
Residents within a mile of the train crossing at James Street in East Palestine were ordered to evacuate while everyone else was told to shelter in place until the fire was extinguished. The evacuation area covered roughly 1,500 to 2,000 of the village’s nearly 5,000 residents.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it expects to have a preliminary report on the accident in four to six weeks, with the full investigation taking 18 to 24 months.
With Post wires