Kentucky train derailment: Evacuations still underway as fire burns at derailment site that spilled molten sulfur


Kentucky residents are urged to evacuate after more than a dozen train cars derailed Wednesday.


A dozen freight train cars were derailed, molten sulfur leaked and the fire was still only 50% contained as of Thursday morning, officials said, prompting residents in central Kentucky to evacuate on Thanksgiving Day.

At least 16 cars were involved in the derailment north of Livingston, including “two molten sulfur cars that broke apart and caught fire, losing some of their contents,” the train’s operator, CSX, said. said in the statement Wednesday. Livingston is a small town about 60 miles south of Lexington.

When molten sulfur burns, it releases sulfur dioxide, CSX said. Sulfur dioxide is a colorless gas with a strong odor. Depending on the level of exposure, it can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat – while exposure to its liquid form can cause frostbite, According to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Special equipment is being used to conduct air monitoring in the area,” CSX added.

“Incident response efforts are underway and local officials are encouraging people in the city of Livingston to evacuate,” Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear’s office said. said in a statement Wednesday. CNN reached out to Rockefeller County officials for more information.

As of Thursday morning, the fire was 50% contained, but residents in the evacuation area were not allowed to return home, Kentucky Emergency Management spokesman Jordan Uodis told CNN.

“Due to the train derailment, many families in Livingston … will be displaced for Thanksgiving. Please think of them and pray for a resolution that will allow them to return to their homes,” Beshear said. Facebook Thursday morning.

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The Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring sulfur dioxide levels in the district, EPA on-site coordinator Matthew Huiser told reporters Thursday. Levels in the immediate area spiked after the train derailment, but those levels have subsided as the fire is extinguished, he said.

EPAs Website Short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can harm the human respiratory system and make breathing difficult, especially for children and people with asthma.

Huyser did not provide the sulfur dioxide levels measured overnight, but said the goal is to reach zero levels. “Firefighting efforts appear to be successful in reducing and completely eliminating quantifiable hazards,” he said.

CSX said it will provide food, shelter and Thanksgiving dinner to displaced families.

Linda Todd said she evacuated her Livingston home Wednesday after being alerted to safety concerns.

“I was freaking out because I was like, ‘We’re cooking and we’ve got turkeys in the oven. We can’t leave.’ They said, ‘You have to go, it’s a bad situation. You have to go,”’ Todd said CNN affiliate WYMT.

Beshear declared a state of emergency in response to the derailment, and his office said the state’s emergency operations center had been activated.

“By declaring a state of emergency, we are making sure every state resource is available to help keep our families safe,” Beshear said. “Please stay out of this area as state, local and CSX officials respond.”

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CSX reported the derailment shortly before 2:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Rockies County Sheriff said the train derailed between Mullins Station and Livingston. CNN affiliate WKYT. One member of the two-member crew was treated at the scene for minor injuries, the train company said.

Two other derailed cars contained magnesium hydroxide, but there were no signs of a breach, CSX said Thursday. Other affected cars were carrying hazardous materials or were empty.

The crash led authorities to close US 25 in both directions from the Laurel County line to Galloway Branch Road, and it is unclear when it will reopen, the Kentucky Department of Transportation for District 8 said in a statement. Social media post Wednesday evening.

CSX said it is working with local authorities to secure the scene and is developing a recovery plan.

“CSX encourages residents near the incident who are concerned about their safety to use a company-protected shelter in Mt. Vernon, KY,” the company said. “In addition to hotels, CSX crews are working with local restaurants to provide meals to affected residents.”

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the agency represented by Jordan Eudis. She is the public information officer for Kentucky Emergency Management.

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