The Ohio National Guard and law enforcement officials blocked off roads Monday into East Palestine, Ohio, as hundreds of residents were warned of a possible major explosion from a derailed train’s wreckage near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border.
Authorities in the 4,761-population community began enforcing what had previously been a strongly recommended evacuation zone within a one-mile radius of the site where 50 cars came off the tracks Friday night, according to the village of East Palestine.
At least 500 people in the area refused to leave their homes by Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement.
Within a two-hour period Sunday night, DeWine said “a drastic temperature change” posed the threat of a “catastrophic tanker failure” that could send potentially deadly shrapnel up to a mile away.
DeWine visited the train derailment command center at a village elementary school for a briefing Monday morning, CBS News reported, as officials worked to prevent any large explosion from the smoldering wreckage.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it continued to monitor the situation Monday and investigators were aware of the change of temperature in two rail cars.
A small explosion was captured via aerial footage from KDKA-TV photographer Monday morning as crews continued working to extinguish burning rail cars.
East Palestine officials, who said emergency responders were monitoring but keeping their distance from the fire, said remediation efforts could not begin while the cars smoldered.
Here’s what to know about the Ohio train derailment:
What caused the Ohio train derailment?
About 50 Norfolk Southern train cars carrying products ranging from wheat and malt liquor to hazardous materials derailed Friday night in a fiery crash 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 crash, according to federal investigators. The crew received an alert about the defect shortly before the accident, National Transportation Safety Board board member Michael Graham said.
While investigators have identified the exact “point of derailment,” the NTSB was still working to figure out which rail car experienced the axle issue, according to Graham. A preliminary investigative report was expected within the next month.
What is vinyl chloride?
Of the train’s more than 100 cars, Norfolk Southern said 20 were classified as carrying hazardous materials – defined as cargo that could pose any kind of danger “including flammables, combustibles or environmental risks.”
Five of the 10 derailed cars carrying hazardous materials contained vinyl chloride, according to the NTSB.
Vinyl chloride is used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin in a variety of plastic products and is associated with increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers, according to the federal government’s National Cancer Institute. Officials stressed Saturday that they had not confirmed any vinyl chloride release other than from pressure-release devices that were operating as designed.
“Short-term exposure to low levels of substances associated with the derailment does not present a long-term health risk to residents,” according to a “Frequently Asked Questions” post on the village Facebook page.
The train’s cars also carried combustible liquids, butyl acrylate and residue of benzene from previous shipments, as well as nonhazardous materials such as wheat, plastic pellets, malt liquors and lube oil, officials said.
What will happen if residents refuse to evacuate?
The Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office announced its enforcement of the one-mile evacuation zone in East Palestine on Sunday night because of the “high probability of a toxic gas release and/or explosion,” the department said in a statement.
Sheriffs went door-to-door Sunday to count remaining residents and urge them to leave.
Businesses, schools and several roads had closed in East Palestine by Monday. The East Palestine Police Department evacuated its communication center Monday while promising via social media that 911 emergency services would not be impacted.
People refusing to evacuate may be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor and possible child endangerment if children are in the household, according to the sheriff’s office.
“Please, for your own safety, remove your families from danger,” authorities shared via social media.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Story Credit: usatoday.com