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Evacuations Ordered After A Train Carrying Hazardous Material Derailed In Eastern Ohio

Update 2/6/23 at 2:40 p.m.: At 3:30 p.m. crews will attempt a “controlled vent” to vent vinyl chloride from five train cars into a ground trench. Governors of both Ohio and Pennsylvania are urging any remaining residents to evacuate.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued an urgent evacuation notice on Sunday night for anyone within a mile of a train derailment in East Palestine, a town that sits near the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The notice comes after a “drastic temperature change” happened in one of the rail cars, which could lead to an explosion that could send shrapnel flying up to a mile away. According to the Columbiana County Sheriff, those with children in their homes who decline to evacuate may be subject to arrest.

The train derailed Friday around 9 p.m. on the east end of East Palestine, and the fire that ensued stretched from one-quarter to one-half mile along the tracks. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Sunday that a mechanical issue with a rail car axle caused the derailment.

20 of the cars were classified as carrying hazardous materials, which means they could include things like flammables, combustibles, or environmental risks.

The NTSB said only 10 cars carrying hazardous materials derailed, and five of them were carrying vinyl chloride, used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin in a variety of plastic products. It is associated with an increased risk of liver cancer and other cancers. The Ohio National Guard has activated to assist at the scene.

“Although teams are working to prevent an explosion from happening, residents living within a mile of the site are advised to immediately leave the area,” the evacuation notice reads.

When the train first derailed on Friday night, the fire was so large that it was visible on the Pittsburgh radar for several hours.

Officials believe that an explosion is imminent and the area will remain closed until further notice.