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Train Derails, Bursts Into Flames in Pa.

Oct 21, 2006 | AP

Several cars of a train that derailed and burst into flames over a bridge in southwestern Pennsylvania continued to burn Saturday, and officials were concerned about the risk of an explosion.

There were no immediate reports of injuries after the accident late Friday that left fiery rail cars dangling over the Beaver River, said Dom Bedolatti, 911 center supervisor at the Beaver County Emergency Management Agency.

 The 80-car Norfolk Southern Railroad train was carrying ethanol, also known as grain alcohol, and officials were concerned about the risk of an explosion, said Terry Erickson, a supervisor with the county Emergency Management Agency. Authorities determined there was no spill.

"It poses more a danger of an explosion than it does of a toxic situation," he said.

Still, downstream water users were notified of the incident as a precaution, said Betsy Mallison, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Eight rail cars on the bridge had caught fire, but authorities did not expect the flames to spread to homes or businesses.

"None of the cars that are on land are on fire," said Brian Hayden, a spokesman for the Beaver County Emergency Operations Center.

The eastbound train's midsection derailed while crossing the bridge, which is about 100 feet high and a half-mile long, Hayden said.

The cause of the derailment and its damage estimate remained unknown Saturday.

At least 50 people were evacuated from homes and businesses in Beaver Falls and New Brighton, emergency officials said. They were expected to remain out of their homes until later Saturday. The site is about 25 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Witnesses reported hearing explosions and seeing flames shoot into the sky.

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