Residents who live near the scene of a fiery train derailment in northeastern Ohio are being urged to evacuate to safety — with officials warning that “catastrophic tanker failure” could cause an explosion that sends “deadly shrapnel traveling up to a mile.”
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine expressed fears for the safety of people living within a mile of the site of Friday’s Norfolk Southern train crash, which sparked a fire that burned into Sunday night.
“Within the last two hours, a drastic temperature change has taken place in a rail car, and there is now the potential of a catastrophic tanker failure which could cause an explosion with the potential of deadly shrapnel traveling up to a mile,” the governor said in a statement Sunday that urged nearby residents to evacuate
The train had been carrying hazardous materials from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania when it derailed in East Palestine on Friday night.
No injuries to crew, residents or first responders have been reported, but the National Guard has been activated over fears of the possible explosion.
Even though many residents have evacuated, more than 500 people have refused to leave their homes, News 5 Cleveland reported.
On Sunday, Fire Chief Keith Drabick said crews were working furiously to prevent the “catastrophic failure” of the tanker and told residents: “We need you to leave now.”
Columbiana County Sheriff Brian McLaughlin warned people that “there is a high probability of a toxic gas release and or explosion,” CNN reported.
“Please, for your own safety, remove your families from danger,” he said.
Of the more than 100 cars, about 20 were carrying hazardous materials, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, which said 10 of those cars derailed, including five that were carrying vinyl chloride.
Drabick said there was a “drastic change” Sunday in the vinyl chloride.
“This catastrophic failure, if it occurs, it will produce hydrogen chloride and phosgene gas into the atmosphere,” he said, according to CNN.
Vinyl chloride, used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin in plastic products, is associated with increased risk of certain cancers, according to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute.
“Short-term exposure to low levels of substances associated with the derailment does not present a long-term health risk to residents,” according to a “Frequently Asked Questions” post on the East Palestine Facebook page.
“Vinyl chloride and benzene may cause cancer in people exposed in the workplace to high concentrations 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 community members.”
The train also carried combustible liquids, butyl acrylate and residue of benzene from prior shipments, officials said.
Rick Clemmer, who lives two miles from the scene of the derailment, told News 5 Cleveland that he can still smell the train cars burning.
“I had security cameras outside that showed a flame coming off the train when it passed our house because the train tracks are right in front of me in front of the porch,” Clemmer told the outlet.
He said his family was packing their items.
“We are getting stuff ready now. We are going to go to her mom’s out in New Castle, packing up clothes, dog cages for the dogs,” he said. “I don’t know if it’d reach way up here, but they’re talking about moving the radius out because there is a danger of it exploding out because the safety features are failing.”
Mayor Trent Conaway, who declared a state of emergency in the village, said one person was arrested for going around barricades and warned that more arrests would follow if people did not stay away.
“I don’t know why anybody would want to be up there — you’re breathing toxic fumes if you’re that close,” he said,
Federal investigators announced that a mechanical issue with a car axle caused the fiery derailment.
NTSB official Michael Graham said at a news conference Sunday that the three-member train crew received an alert about the mechanical defect “shortly before the derailment.”
He said investigators have identified the exact “point of derailment” but did not disclose the location Sunday, adding that information will be included in a preliminary report expected in the next few weeks.
With Post Wires