Kentucky town ordered to evacuate after train derails, spilling chemicals

Fire engulfs two train cars after derailment as toxic fumes release in area

Shweta Sharma
Thursday 23 November 2023 05:55 GMT
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File photo of a CSX freight train passing through Homestead
File photo of a CSX freight train passing through Homestead (AP)

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Authorities ordered residents of a small and remote Kentucky town to immediately evacuate as they declared a state of emergency on Wednesday after a train derailed and spilled chemicals.

At least 16 train cars derailed in Rockcastle County and two carrying sulphur ended up catching fire and releasing toxic fumes in the area, according to railway officials.

Kentucky governor Andy Beshear said the Rockcastle County urged residents in Livingston, a town with the population of 200, to evacuate.

He declared a state of emergency to ensure “every state resource is available to help keep our families safe”.

“Please stay clear of this area as state, local and CSX officials respond,” his statement said.

Railroad operator CSX said on Thursday that the train derailed north of Livingston at 2.23pm and preliminary information indicated “that at least 16 cars were involved, including two molten sulphur cars that have been breached and have lost some of their contents which is on fire”.

At least one crew member was treated at the scene for minor injuries. Authorities continue to assess the threat from the chemical leak.

“When molten sulphur burns it is known to release sulphur dioxide,” CSX said in its statement.

“Specialised equipment is being deployed to conduct air monitoring in the area.

“CSX is in close contact with the Rockcastle County emergency teams as they continue to assess the situation and we appreciate their swift response.”

The railroad operator also urged residents near where the incident occurred to utilise lodging offered by the company in Mt Vernon.

It said they are also working with local restaurants and hotels to provide meals for affected residents.

The state authorities have provided shelter to the people at a local middle school.

It is not immediately clear how extensive the spill was or what impact it might have on the environment in the remote area.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 8 said US Route 25 was blocked in both directions following the train derailment.

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