Train Derailment Causes Massive Fire in Ohio

    Train Derailment Causes Massive Fire in Ohio
    Last updated Feb 07, 2023
    Image credit: AP [via CBS News]


    • A roughly 50-car-long Norfolk Southern freight train headed from Illinois to Pennsylvania derailed on Friday night near the town of East Palestine, Ohio. The incident sparked a massive fire and prompted officials to order the evacuation of 2K local residents.
    • With 500 residents reportedly still refusing to leave their homes, a local sheriff warned on Sunday that "there is a high probability of a toxic gas release and/or explosion," while the fire chief has told residents they need to "leave now."
    • 50 fire companies from three states responded to the scene, and hazmat crews were deployed to address hazardous burning materials. Freezing temperatures complicated the response to the incident, as some trucks were hampered by frozen water pumps.
    • The burning chemical at the scene was identified as vinyl chloride, a flammable gas used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, vehicle interior features, and plastic kitchenware. Though the chemical "has been shown to increase the risk of a rare form of liver cancer," the town has reported that "zero health risks" have been discovered so far.
    • Though the derailment caused an explosion and fire officials warned of the continuing potential for secondary explosions until the fire has been completely extinguished, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.
    • Ohio Gov. Mark DeWine has warned that the train cars could create a "potentially catastrophic" explosion, though authorities were planning to conduct a controlled release of the toxic chemicals on Monday afternoon.


    Narrative A

    Thankfully, no train officials, first responders, or residents have so far been injured, but this derailment and its subsequent toxic gas release will put people at extreme risk in the future. It cannot go unsaid that this incident comes as rail corporations and Congress are rejecting rail workers' requests for paid sick leave, a simple measure that would significantly benefit safety in the sector. Action should be taken to reduce the risk of future incidents like this.

    Narrative B

    This derailment is concerning, but very rare when considering the vast majority of freight deliveries are made successfully every year. All authorities involved have sprung into action, and it's now the duty of those in the area to heed official warnings and evacuate if they live in the danger zone.

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