EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AP) — Officials were working to prevent a major explosion from the smoking wreckage of an Ohio train derailment near the Pennsylvania state line when the governor activated the National Guard from Ohio to help the village, many of whose fleeing residents had to evacuate.
The village in eastern Palestine said Monday morning that authorities would begin enforcing a previously strongly recommended evacuation zone within a one-mile (1.6 km) radius of the crash site.
Officials had warned hundreds of nearby residents who refused to evacuate on Sunday evening, saying a train car was at risk of a possible explosion that could send deadly shrapnel up to a mile.
They warned of “the potential for a catastrophic tanker truck failure” after a “drastic temperature change” was observed in that car, according to a statement from the office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. . He did not specify what was in this car or if it was one of those which had transported hazardous materials.
The statement said the guard will support local and state authorities who are already on the ground in the village, which has closed roads, schools and businesses and even evacuated its police communications center, and promised in a message on Facebook than emergency services wouldn’t. be affected.
About 50 cars were derailed in a violent crash Friday night as the train carried a variety of goods from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania, rail operator Norfolk Southern said. No injuries were reported to the crew, local residents or first responders.
Federal investigators say the cause was a mechanical problem with a railroad car axle. The train’s three-person crew received a warning about the mechanical failure “just before the derailment,” National Transportation Safety Board board member Michael Graham said Sunday. Graham said investigators had pinpointed the exact “point of derailment”, but the board was still working to determine which car had the axle problem.
A preliminary investigation report is expected within about a month.
Eastern Palestine officials said rescuers were watching the blaze but were keeping their distance and cleanup efforts could not begin while cars were smoldering.
Mayor Trent Conaway, who declared a state of emergency in the village, said a person was arrested for driving around barricades before crashing. He warned people to stay away, saying they risked being arrested.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to be up there; You breathe in toxic fumes when you’re so close,’ he said, noting that air quality monitors away from the fire showed no concern and that the city’s water is safe because it is fed by groundwater that has not been contaminated by materials. went off in torrents. Environmental Protection Agency officials have been working to remove pollutants from rivers and monitor water quality.
Sheriffs went door to door Sunday to count the remaining residents and urged those in the evacuation zone to leave the area.
Norfolk Southern said 20 of the train’s more than 100 carriages were classified as carrying hazardous materials – defined as cargo that could present any type of hazard “including combustible materials or environmental hazards”.
The NTSB said only 10 cars carrying hazardous materials derailed and five of them were carrying vinyl chloride, not 14 as previously reported. Officials stressed on Saturday evening that they had not confirmed the release of vinyl chloride other than pressure relief devices working as expected.
According to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute, vinyl chloride, used to make the hard plastic polyvinyl chloride resin in a variety of plastic products, is linked to an increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers. .
“Short-term contact with low levels of derailment-related substances does not pose a long-term health risk to residents,” reads a “Frequently Asked Questions” post on the village’s Facebook page. “Vinyl chloride and benzene can cause cancer in people exposed to high levels at work for many years; However, there is no evidence that potential post-derailment exposure increases the risk of cancer or other long-term health effects to community members.
Officials said Sunday afternoon that the cars involved were also carrying flammable liquids, butyl acrylate and benzene residue from previous shipments, as well as non-hazardous materials such as wheat, plastic pellets , malt liquors and lubricating oil.
The evacuation order affected the homes of 1,500 to 2,000 of the city’s 4,800 to 4,900 residents, but officials said it was unclear how many were actually affected. Most of those who had made it to an emergency shelter were no longer there on Sunday.
Norfolk Southern has opened a rescue center in the village to gather information from affected residents.
The Associated Press
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