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People living in East Palestine, Ohio, were told to evacuate if they lived within a one-mile radius of the train crash, which spawned a massive fire that lit up the night sky at around 9:00 p.m. Friday.
“If you are within a one-mile radius of the James Street crossing please evacuate,” said Mayor Trent Conaway, who added that the EPA was monitoring the air quality around the town of just over 4,700 people.
— Sheila Marie Miller (@21NewsEP) February 4, 2023
During the derailment, several trains caught on fire and were carrying hazardous materials, according to East Palestine Fire Chief Keith A. Drabick. “If you have to come to East Palestine, don’t,” he said. “Stay out of the area.”
According to Norfolk Southern, the train’s operator, about 20 of the train’s 100 cars had hazardous materials including “flammables, combustibles, or environmental risks.” The train, bound for Conway, Pennsylvania, was coming from Madison, Illinois. There have been no reported injuries or deaths yet as a result of the crash and subsequent fire.
While the cause of the crash is currently unknown, a team from the National Safety Transportation Board is being sent out to investigate. Firefighting teams from three states came to help, according to Conaway, though they struggled to douse the fire because of frigid conditions. East Palestine is not far from Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Evacuation shelters at a local high school and community center were opened for those residents (between 1,500-2,000) who were told to leave. “We’re glad to be here for the community,” said East Palestine City Schools Superintendent Chris Neifer. “There’s really nowhere else to go unless you’re going out of town at this point.”
One local, William Hugar, told WFMJ that the fire came near his house. “When the fire started spreading behind my house, I knew it was time to go,” he said. “Police came up and told me. I knew it was time to evacuate.”
Another local, Ann McAnlis, said she learned of the fire from a neighbor. “And my neighbor texted me and she asked me if I knew that there was an accident with the trains. She took a picture of the glow in the sky from the front porch. That’s when I knew how substantial this was,” she said.