Environmental authorities are anxiously monitoring air quality monitors as scores of derailed freight cars, some carrying dangerous commodities, burn to a cinder near the Pennsylvania state boundary in Ohio.
A train from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, carrying a variety of goods, derailed in East Palestine at around 9 p.m. on Friday, according to rail operator Norfolk Southern. There have been no reports of the crew, residents, or emergency personnel getting hurt.
Emergency personnel was keeping a safe distance from the fire while keeping an eye on it, according to East Palestine officials, who said that as long as the cars continued to burn, no remediation work could be done. According to officials, a 1-mile radius is under evacuation.
Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board stated on Sunday that preliminary investigations have located the spot of the derailment and that they have collected two films that reveal early signs of mechanical problems on one of the rail car axles.
The NTSB claims that just before the derailment, crew members were alerted to a mechanical problem, and an emergency brake application was started.
Since the area is still not deemed safe and the NTSB is unsure of how long it will take to clean up the wreckage, authorities deployed a drone team to map the whole area.
Officials are gathering perishable evidence at the scene, according to the NTSB, and will soon start analyzing their findings.
According to NTSB authorities, a comprehensive study might take anywhere between 18 and 24 months, while a preliminary report is anticipated to be released in 4-6 weeks.
One person was detained for allegedly navigating roadblocks up until the crash throughout the night, according to village mayor Trent Conaway, who also declared a state of emergency in the community. If they didn’t keep away, he threatened, additional arrests will happen.
He stressed that air quality monitors away from the fire showed no levels of concern and that the town’s water is safe because it is supplied by groundwater unaffected by some material that went into streams.
He said, “I don’t know why anybody would want to be up there; you’re breathing toxic fumes if you’re that close.” Crews from the environmental protection agency were trying to clean toxins out of streams and keep an eye on the water’s condition.
It was crucial to stay away from the region, according to Fire Chief Keith Drabick “because of the flaming wreck of a train transporting dangerous materials in the town. There is no simpler statement than that.”
Sheriffs visited homes on Sunday to count the number of individuals still living there and to ask those who were in the evacuation zone to leave. Officials issued a statement appealing for cooperation and requesting residents to leave.
On Monday, both village offices and schools will be closed. That afternoon, administrators will decide whether or not to extend the school shutdown.
Twenty of the more than 100 cars, according to Norfolk Southern, were labeled as transporting hazardous commodities, which are described as freight that may be dangerous in any way, “including flammables, combustibles, or environmental threats.
” Some cars were carrying vinyl chloride, and at least one had a pressure release mechanism that was “intermittently releasing” its load.
In contrast to early claims that there were 14, the NTSB reported that only 10 hazardous material-carrying carriages derailed, five of which were carrying vinyl chloride.
The leak of vinyl chloride outside of pressure release mechanisms working as intended has not been proven, officials said late on Saturday.
According to the National Cancer Institute of the federal government, vinyl chloride, which is used to manufacture polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin in a variety of plastic products, is linked to an elevated risk of liver cancer and other malignancies.
A fact sheet outlining all substances involved was to be sent by Norfolk Southern.
The town’s 4,800–4,900 residents were subject to the evacuation order, although officials stated it was unclear how many of them were actually impacted. At an emergency shelter, about eight people were still there.
To gather information from the impacted inhabitants, Norfolk Southern built an information center in the town.
According to local officials, the center saw 75 visitors on Saturday and roughly 100 visitors on Sunday morning.