An explosion is feared after a train derailed in Ohio’s northeast, prompting officials to urge residents to leave their homes immediately.
Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s office issued a statement saying that teams were working to prevent an explosion in the village of East Palestine after residents were warned of “the potential of a catastrophic tanker failure” after a “drastic temperature change” was discovered in the rail car.
Everyone within a mile of the area was ordered to evacuate. Despite the fact that many people had already evacuated, authorities reported that, as of Sunday night, over 500 inhabitants had chosen to remain in the neighborhood.
On Sunday morning, federal investigators released their findings, saying that the crash on Friday night near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border was caused by a technical problem with a rail car axle.
At a news conference, National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham said the train’s three-person crew had gotten a warning about the technical issue just before the derailment, and that the board was still trying to pinpoint which rail car had failed.
The rail company Norfolk Southern reports that approximately 50 cars crashed near East Palestine while transporting goods from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania. There were no recorded casualties.
Graham stated that the “point of derailment” had been discovered. A preliminary investigation report, he said, will be made public within the next month or so.
Officials on the ground said emergency crews were keeping their distance from the smoking train cars and were keeping a close eye on the situation.
The mayor of East Palestine, Trent Conaway, has stated that one individual was apprehended for attempting to approach the train despite the presence of barricades. He threatened more arrests if individuals did not leave the area.
As for why anyone would want to be up there, he said, “you’re breathing toxic fumes if you’re that close,” before stressing that air quality monitors away from the fire did not show levels of concern and that the town’s water is safe because it uses groundwater unaffected by some material that went into streams.
Crews from the Environmental Protection Agency were trying to clean up streams and assess the water quality.
On Sunday, deputies went door-to-door in the evacuation zone to take a headcount and urge occupants to leave. All village facilities, including schools, will be closed until Monday. There will be no Monday business openings within the evacuation zone.
Of the more than a hundred carriages on the train, Norfolk Southern reported that twenty were carrying dangerous chemicals. Five of the derailed trains were transporting vinyl chloride, the business said, out of a total of 10 cars carrying hazardous commodities. As of late Saturday, authorities still hadn’t proven that any vinyl chloride had been released without proper pressure release devices.
The National Cancer Institute has linked vinyl chloride—used to produce the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin found in many plastic products—to an increased risk of various cancers.
There is no long-term health danger to inhabitants from “short-term exposure to low amounts of contaminants related with the derailment,” as stated in a Facebook post by the community. To quote the report: “Vinyl chloride and benzene may cause cancer in people exposed to high concentrations in the workplace for many years; however, there is no indication that any potential exposure that occurred after the derailment increases the risk of cancer or any other long-term health effects in the community.”
Butyl acrylate and benzene residue from previous shipments were among the combustible liquids in the automobiles, officials said Sunday afternoon. They also claimed to be transporting nonhazardous items like wheat, plastic pellets, malt liquors, and lubricant oil.
Officials said they didn’t know how many of the town’s 4,800 or 4,900 citizens were affected by the evacuation order. By Sunday, most locals who had taken refuge in a shelter had returned home.