(ReliableNews.org) – Toxic chemicals have exploded on a derailed train in Ohio. The train came off the track on Friday, February 3, triggering a state of emergency in the area. On Monday, as emergency workers struggled to avert the risk of a disaster, a cloud of released gas ignited with a loud explosion and a plume of smoke. State authorities say the situation is now stabilized, but as of Tuesday, evacuated residents still weren’t allowed to return home.
Big explosion at the site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.pic.twitter.com/3OlZQSM7eV
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) February 6, 2023
On February 4, a Norfolk Southern train hauling 150 freight cars, 20 of which industrial chemicals from Madison, Iillinois to Conway, PA, derailed near East Palestine, OH, close to the Ohio-Pennsylvania border. Ten of its 20 cars came off the track, leaving five of them — all loaded with vinyl chloride — in an “unstable” and potentially explosive condition.
A statement by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) warned that if the cars exploded, the blast could throw shrapnel and toxic fumes over a wide area. To avoid that, the train company was planning a “controlled release” using shaped charges to punch three-inch holes in the tanks and release their contents. The chemical would flow into a flare-lined ditch, where it would burn off. That’s what seems to have happened, with witnesses reporting a loud explosion and dark smoke rising into the sky.
Residents of East Palestine, the closest village to the derailment, had already been evacuated. Before the controlled release, DeWine and Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro (D) expanded that area to cover a 1×2-mile area that crosses the state boundary. So far, there’s no clue when residents will be allowed to go home, but as reported by local news station WTOV9, DeWine said, “It’s not going to be immediate… It’s not going to be quickly.”
Vinyl chloride is used to make PVC. In the past, it was also used as an anesthetic and a refrigerant — but while PVC is a safe and non-toxic plastic, it turned out that vinyl chloride is toxic and carcinogenic as well as highly flammable. Now, it’s only used in PVC manufacture — but transporting it can still be dangerous.
The Ohio EPA is reporting fish deaths in the surrounding area, and is also monitoring air quality. Meanwhile, HAZMAT workers on site are trying to decontaminate and clear the wreckage. The unlucky residents of East Palestine could have to wait a little longer before they go home.
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