Evacuation Order Issued in Ohio Village After Train Carrying Hazardous Chemicals Derails

Officials have urged hundreds of nearby residents to evacuate as the 150-car train, carrying hazardous materials that derailed in northeastern Ohio on Friday, was at risk of a potential explosion. The derailment caused a massive fire, and left behind a mangled and charred mass of boxcars.

People living in the 1-mile radius around the crash site have been advised to evacuate as quickly as possible. Brian McLaughlin, Columbiana County Sheriff, warned that there is a high probability of a toxic gas release and explosion. "Please, for your own safety, remove your families from danger.

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Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's office said teams were working to prevent an explosion at the scene in East Palestine. It warned of "the potential of a catastrophic tanker failure" after a drastic temperature change.

Hazardous Materials Degraded

The Columbiana County Emergency Management Director said the condition of one of the derailed train cars carrying hazardous materials has degraded. As such, there is a much higher concern about an uncontrolled release and explosion of the car.

Following the derailment that was caused by mechanical issues with a rail car axle, Mayor Trent Conaway declared a state of emergency in the village. He said one person was arrested for going around barricades right up to the crash during the night. "I don't know why anybody would want to be up there; you're breathing toxic fumes if you're that close." The mayor said monitors of air quality away from the fire showed no levels of concern.

The Ohio Department of Health, in an official statement, said man-made chemical used to make PVC, vinyl chloride burns easily at room temperature. "Breathing high levels of it can make someone die or pass out if they don't get fresh air. It also can cause dizziness, sleepiness, and headaches, and has links to increased risk cancer in the liver, brain, lungs and blood."

Keith Drabick, the Fire Chief, said measures are being taken to try and control that and prevent that from happening. "This catastrophic failure, if it occurs, it will produce hydrogen chloride and phosgene gas into the atmosphere and the risk radius around the derailment may grow.

Cargo Poses Any Kind of Danger

Rail operator Norfolk Southern highlighted that 20 of the more than 100 cars were classified as carrying hazardous materials. This could pose any kind of danger, including flammables, combustibles, or environmental risks. Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, said 14 cars carrying vinyl chloride were involved in the derailment and have been exposed to fire. He said their team would concentrate on gathering perishable information about the derailment of the train.

Authorities continue to urge people to stay away from the scene.

This article was first published on February 6, 2023