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Ohio train derailment: state of emergency declared


A train derailment and resulting large fire prompted an evacuation order and declaration of a state of emergency in an Ohio village near the Pennsylvania state line Friday night, covering the area of ​​waves of smoke lit orange by the flames below.

About 50 carriages derailed in eastern Palestine as a train carried a variety of goods from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, train operator Norfolk Southern said in a statement on Saturday. There was no immediate information about what caused the derailment. No injuries were reported.

Mayor Trent Conaway of the village of East Palestine declared a state of emergency, citing a “train derailment with hazardous materials”. Norfolk Southern said the train was carrying more than 100 carriages, 20 of which were classified as carrying hazardous materials, defined as cargo that could present any type of hazard “including flammables, combustibles or environmental hazards”.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Saturday it was “dropping a team to investigate” the derailment, and board member Michael Graham would “serve as the on-site spokesperson.”

Firefighters have been withdrawn from the immediate area and unmanned flow devices are being used for protection as crews try to determine which cars are still actively burning, village officials said in a separate statement on Saturday. They said they hoped to use drones to assess the scene in daylight and warned residents could hear more explosions as the fire burns.

The village informed residents that an evacuation order remained in place Saturday morning for people within a mile of the scene. A high school and community center were opened to house dozens of people, while residents beyond that radius were told to stay indoors.

Among the few dozen locals housed at the high school was Ann McAnlis, who said a neighbor texted her about the accident.

“She took a picture of the glow in the sky from the porch,” McAnlis told WFMJ-TV. “That’s when I knew how important it was.”

Conaway told reporters that firefighters from three states responded. The derailment occurred about 51 miles (82 kilometers) northwest of Pittsburgh and less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the tip of the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Freezing single-digit temperatures complicated the response as water-pumping trucks froze, Conaway said.

Hazmat crews also responded to the scene to determine if any hazardous materials were involved and air quality in the area is being monitored, officials said.

Norfolk Southern said it has staff on hand to coordinate with first responders.

The fire created so much smoke that area meteorologists said it was visible on weather radar.

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