Toxic chemicals will be released from the cars of the derailed train in Ohio

Authorities in Ohio planned to release toxic chemicals Monday afternoon from five cars of a derailed train to reduce a threat of an explosion near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.

A “controlled release” of vinyl chloride was scheduled to occur at 3:30 p.m. EST amid the threat of a possible major explosion from the wreckage of the train carrying hazardous materials that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio.

The release was expected to take between one and three hours, according to Scott Deutsch of Norfolk Southern Railway. Deutsch said daytime release would reduce the risk of exploding railcars and allow fumes to disperse more quickly.

Ohio National Guard and law enforcement officials blocked roads into eastern Palestine on Monday as hundreds of residents were warned of the dangers.

Authorities in the community of 4,761 people were enforcing what was previously a strongly recommended evacuation zone within a 1-mile radius of the site where 50 cars ran off the tracks on Friday night, according to the East Palestine Village.

In a two-hour slot on Sunday evening, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said “a drastic change in temperature” posed the threat of a “catastrophic tanker failure” that could send shrapnel potentially fatal up to a mile away.

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While around 500 people in the area refused to leave their homes on Sunday, officials said on Monday that most, if not all, residents had left. Authorities continued knocking on doors on Monday to make sure people were gone.

“You have to go, we’re ordering you to go,” DeWine said at an afternoon news conference to all remaining residents. “It’s a matter of life or death, you are in imminent danger.”

Referencing an evacuation map, DeWine had a stern warning: “If you’re in that red zone, you’re probably very possible death, and if you’re in the yellow zone, definitely serious, long-term injury. “

Here’s what to know about the train derailment in Ohio:

What caused the train derailment in Ohio?

About 50 Norfolk Southern train cars carrying products ranging from wheat and malt liquor to hazardous materials derailed Friday night in a fire accident near the Pennsylvania state line. The train with three crew members on board was traveling from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania.

A mechanical problem with a rail car axle caused the accident, according to federal investigators. The crew received an alert about the defect shortly before the accident, said National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham.

This photo taken with a drone shows portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed on February 3, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio.

While investigators pinpointed the exact “point of derailment,” the NTSB was still working to determine which car had the axle problem, according to Graham. A preliminary investigation report was expected within the next month.

What is vinyl chloride?

Of the train’s more than 100 carriages, Norfolk Southern said 20 were classified as carrying hazardous materials – defined as cargo that could present any type of hazard “including flammables, combustibles or environmental hazards”.

Five of the 10 derailed cars carrying hazardous materials contained vinyl chloride, according to the NTSB.

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Vinyl chloride is used to make the tough plastic polyvinyl chloride resin in a variety of plastic products and is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers, according to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute. . Officials stressed on Saturday that they had not confirmed any releases of vinyl chloride other than pressure-relief devices that worked as expected.

“Short-term exposure to low levels of substances associated with the derailment does not pose a long-term health risk to residents,” according to a “Frequently Asked Questions” post on the village’s Facebook page.

The train cars also carried combustible liquids, butyl acrylate and benzene residue from previous shipments, as well as non-hazardous materials such as wheat, plastic pellets, malt liquors and l lubricating oil, officials said.

East Palestine resident Kathy Burr waits for help at the Norfolk Southern Assistance Center at the East Palestine Community Center, Feb. 5, 2023, in East Palestine, Ohio. Burr says she had smoke from the train derailment floating around her house.

What will happen if residents refuse to evacuate?

The Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office announced late Sunday the enforcement of the one kilometer evacuation zone in eastern Palestine due to the “high likelihood of toxic gas release and/or ‘an explosion,’ the department said in a statement.

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Shops, schools and several roads had closed Monday in eastern Palestine. The Eastern Palestine Police Department evacuated its communications center on Monday while promising via social media that 911 emergency services would not be affected.

According to the sheriff’s office, people refusing to evacuate can be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor and possible child endangerment if children are in the household.

“Please, for your own safety, keep your families away from danger,” authorities shared via social media.

East Palestine Police block roads in the city center on February 5, 2023.

Contributor: The Associated Press

USA Today

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