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CSX Train Derailment Fire Burns As Some Evacuees Return Home

Oct 11, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP At least a dozen cars involved in the CSX train derailment near Plainesville, Ohio were still burning this morning, as fire crews prepared to begin the dangerous work of dousing the flames.   No one was injured when the train ran off the track around noon yesterday, resulting in the evacuation of more than 1,000 people within a half mile of the accident scene.  

The 112-car mixed freight train was traveling from Collingwood, Ohio to Buffalo, New York when it derailed outside of Painesville, about 30 miles from Cleveland.   Witnesses to the CSX train derailment reported hearing a loud explosion, and seeing a bright, white flash. The accident resulted in a massive fire, which sent flames shooting at least 30 feet into the air.   People miles from the derailment said that plumes of thick black smoke could be seen billowing from the site.

There is still no world on what caused the CSX train derailment.  Early reports yesterday said that the train had struck a gas line and exploded.   But that has not been confirmed, and the Associated Press is reporting that officials have not determined if the blast witnesses heard was in fact an explosion, or if it was the sound of the actual train derailment.

Of the dozen cars on fire, eight contained hazardous materials including ethanol, liquid petroleum and phtalic anhydride, a chemical used in making plastics.   While none of those chemicals are toxic inhalants, there was concern that alcohol in some of the tankers could run off into a nearby stream, killing fish and wildlife.   The stream, Blackbrook Creek, drains into Mentor Marsh, a federally designated natural landmark. Inspectors from the Environmental Protection Agency were monitoring the air and water overnight in six different spots for any contamination. Fire crews were also in the process of building earthen dams to contain any runoff.

Last night, fire officials decided to wait for the fire to die down on its own, because one of the tankers contained ethanol.   A fire official told the Associated Press that it would safer to allow the fire to burn in a controlled manner for a while so that the ethanol could burn off.  One tanker car which was filled with liquid petroleum was not burning, but firefighters were dousing the car with water to prevent it from igniting.  If all goes as planned, fire crews should start working today to put out the fires.

About 1,300 people were evacuated from homes and business within a half-mile of the train derailment.   Most of the evacuations took place in the Heisley Park neighborhood.  The evacuees also included 340 students from nearby Lathrop Elementary.   Evacuees were taken to the Lake County YMCA and a local high school.  While some people were allowed to return home this morning, those living closest to the site of the train derailment were still being kept away.  There is no word yet on when the rest of the evacuees from the CSX train derailment will be able to go home.

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