An Ohio town is under a state of emergency after a freight train carrying "hazardous materials" derailed late Friday, starting a raging fire that forced an evacuation.
At least 50 wagons left the tracks in East Palestine without the causes of the accident being specified yet.
So far no injuries have been reported, but it is known that the train was carrying freight from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern reported.
The town's mayor, Trent Conaway, declared a state of emergency and said that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors air quality in the evacuated area, approximately one mile, but has not registered dangerous readings, as reported. the AP agency.
This photo taken with a drone shows parts of the train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio.Gene J. Puskar / AP
“Everyone is working together to try to resolve this situation to the best of our ability,” Conaway said in a video broadcast on the NBC affiliate station in Youngstown, Ohio.
Although the investigation of the accident has already begun, investigators have not been able to access the site because it is still considered an "active fire scene," Michael Graham, a member of the Safety Board of the National Transportation Board (NTSB).
The federal agency hopes that this Sunday it will be able to download the data from the black boxes of the three locomotives that moved the load, as well as the video from the cameras in each of them.
Meanwhile, investigators are analyzing state police and drone aerial video of the site, as well as footage from cameras near the railroad, Graham said.
The official explained that the accident occurred at 8:55 pm.
As of Saturday afternoon, the train conductor had not been interviewed.
He explained that the maximum speed on the road is 45 miles per hour, but until now they do not know what the speed at which the machine was moving at the time of the accident was known.
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The NTSB expects to have a preliminary report of the accident in four to six weeks, but the investigation could take up to 24 months.
The authorities set up two evacuation centers and notified the Red Cross.
People living within a mile of the James Street intersection were told to leave, and people in other areas were told to stay indoors and buildings.
Norfolk Southern said the train had more than 100 cars,
20 of which were carrying hazardous materials,
meaning cargo that could pose any type of hazard "including flammable, combustible or environmental hazards."
The fire forced the evacuation of the area.Elizabeth Parker Sherry
Fire chief Keith Draick said they were more concerned about a load of the
chemical vinyl chloride,
but the carriages' safety features were still working.
According to Graham said, 14 wagons carried the substance.
Vinyl chloride, which is used to make the hard plastic polyvinyl chloride resin used in a variety of plastic products, is associated with an increased risk of liver and other cancers, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Emergency crews will keep their distance until rail officials tell them it's safe to approach, Drabick said, according to the AP report.
"Looks like we're going to be late for Chicago."
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68 agencies from three states and several counties responded
to the derailment, which occurred about 51 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and 20 miles from the northern end of the West Virginia Panhandle.
Elizabeth Parker Sherry told the AP that her 19-year-old son was on his way to Walmart to buy a new television in time for the Super Bowl when he called her to see the flames and black smoke near her home.
She in turn sent a message to her mother to get out of her house by the tracks.
In the end everyone, including her daughter, had to leave the house while emergency teams went door to door asking people to evacuate.
This photo provided by Melissa Smith shows flames and smoke coming from derailed railcars, taken from her farm in East Palestine, Ohio, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023. (Melissa Smith via AP)Melissa Smith / AP
The evacuation area covered 1,500 to 2,000 of East Palestine's nearly 5,000 residents, but it was unknown how many people were actually affected, Mayor Conaway said.
Michael Graham of the NTSB sent a message to residents of nearby areas. "Watch out for local rescue teams and do exactly as they tell you."
Conaway, for his part, asked people to keep first responders in their thoughts and prayers.
“Not only is it a cold night, but they are dealing with a situation that many of them have never faced,” he said.