Officials warned the public on Monday that a potential explosion could send shrapnel as far as a mile after a train derailment in Ohio sparked a massive fire.
A mechanical defect caused a Norfolk Southern train of about fifty cars to derail Friday night and started a fire that crews from three states battled throughout the weekend. Due to the fire and the hazardous materials within the cars, authorities ordered evacuations for about 2,000 residents living within a one-mile radius of the wreckage.
Officials warn that a “catastrophic” blast is possible at the site of a train derailment in northeastern Ohio.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 6, 2023
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine urged residents of East Palestine (pronounced “Pales-TEEN”) within the evacuation zone to “immediately ” leave the area due to the potential of “major explosion” at the still smoldering site, citing a “drastic temperature change” that has taken place within one of the rail cars.
“Although teams are working to prevent an explosion from happening, residents living within a mile of the site are advised to immediately leave the area. While most individuals in the one-mile radius have already evacuated , local officials say that more than 500 people have declined to leave their homes,” DeWine said in a statement posted to Twitter.
Nic Marcinko, a firefighter from Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, called in to help respond to the accident, described the scene as a “1/2 mile long fire.”
“Never in my life did I think I would see a 1/2 mile long fire but sure as shit I did!” Marcinko told the Daily Caller. He also said he has been “coughing like crazy” despite using a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), and that he has been told the gear he wore at the scene “will either have to be professionally cleaned or destroyed.”
Norfolk Southern confirmed that some of the cars on the train were carrying materials that were classified as hazardous, including vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate and residue of benzene from previous shipments, CBS News reported. While vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate is known to cause cancer people exposed in the workplace to high concentrations over the course of many years, officials have stated “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,” according to the outlet. (RELATED: EPA Says There’s No Evidence Fracking Contaminates Groundwater)
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway announced that one person had already been arrested for moving past the barricades to view the crash site and warned that others would be arrested if they did the same. “I don’t know why anybody would want to be up there; you’re breathing toxic fumes if you’re that close,” he said, according to CBS News.
Conaway also assured residents that air quality away from the fire was safe and added that, since the town’s water supply is fed by groundwater, it has been unaffected by the hazardous materials that leaked into nearby streams and are currently being removed by Environmental Protection Agency crews, the outlet stated.