Evacuation Order Remains at NS Derailment Site

Residents of East Palestine on Saturday night remained under evacuation and shelter-in-place orders as work continued to extinguish a massive fire triggered by a Norfolk Southern derailment Friday night.

During a Saturday news conference, National Transportation Safety Board member Michael Graham said officials could not estimate when the fire would be contained.

He said NTSB has the image and data recorders from the locomotives of NS Train 32N, which was en route to Conway Yard near Pittsburgh with 150 cars when the derailment occurred.

Graham said that 50 of the train’s cars derailed.

Officials are still seeking a cause for the derailment and said it might take four to six weeks before the safety agency has a preliminary report.

Graham said one freight car released vinyl chloride through a safety release valve.

However, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency officials said they have not detected any harmful levels of the chemical at the derailment site or in the air surrounding it.

The National Cancer Institute describes vinyl chloride as a colorless flammable gas that is associated with a higher risk of some forms of cancer.

“Ohio EPA will remain on site and air monitors will remain in place as long as necessary,” Ohio EPA spokesperson James Lee said in a statement.

The statement also said Ohio EPA officials are working with local officials and NS personnel to “identify the nature and extent” of any possible contamination and will work to ensure cleanup efforts to protect human health and the environment.”

City officials cautioned that although drinking water is safe to consume, it may be discolored because of the amount of water being used to fight the fire.

The train involved in the derailment had more than 100 cars and derailed at 8:55 p.m. Friday on the Fort Wayne Line about 50 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. East Palestine, located on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, has a population of 4,700.

The train had originated in Madison, Illinois, near St. Louis and traveled via Decatur, Illinois; Lafayette, Indiana, and Cleveland.

Officials said 20 cars contained hazardous material and 10 of those cars derailed. Five of the derailed cars carried vinyl chloride.

“We have not confirmed vinyl chloride has been released other than from the pressure release devices,” the Ohio EPA said.

East Palestine residents displaced by the derailment and fire are being accommodated at two evacuation stations. About 2,000 people were affected by the evacuation order.

One news report said NS was not allowing firefighters into the area because of safety concerns resulting from a lack of knowledge over which cars may be involved in the fire.

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