As federal investigators scrambled to uncover why a 150-car train derailed in northeast Ohio, the state’s governor warned late Sunday that volatile temperatures in a car carrying chemicals could cause an explosion.
The area most likely to be affected by Friday’s accident, located within a 1.5 km radius of the accident in the village of East Palestine, was evacuated early on Saturday and remained off-limits, it said. officials.
But Gov. Mike DeWine’s office said about 500 residents remained within the 1-mile zone. He said they were on an “urgent warning” to evacuate.
“In the past two hours, a drastic change in temperature has occurred in a rail car, and there is now the potential for a catastrophic failure of the tanker which could cause an explosion with the potential for fatal shrapnel traveling up to one mile,” the governor said. office said in a statement.
The governor’s office said residents with remaining children could be arrested. He cited a threat made by the Columbiana County Sheriff’s Office.
At 8 p.m., the governor ordered troops from the Ohio National Guard to eastern Palestine to assist local authorities, his office said.
Eastern Palestine officials said Monday morning that efforts continued overnight to stabilize the tank cars containing the hazardous materials.
“At this stage, there have been no substantial changes,” the statement said.
The one-mile evacuation zone remains in place and roadblocks are manned by law enforcement. Residents of the area outside the evacuation zone are advised to stay indoors.
“Residents should also avoid travel to keep roads clear for emergency services,” the statement said.
The crash site produced several small explosions or combustion explosions after several cars carrying hazardous materials exploded during the derailment, reported at 8:55 p.m. Friday, and continued to burn Sunday morning.
The wreckage included about 50 off-road cars, officials said. Michael Graham, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, on Sunday identified at least 10 of them as “dangerous cars” or carrying hazardous materials or chemicals. Five of them would have transported a chemical of concern, vinyl chloride.
A train enthusiast whose backyard faces the east-west railway track used by Norfolk Southern said the derailment area is a straight section.
Federal investigators have focused in part on the role of a possible mechanical malfunction, officials said Sunday.
The train crew said an alarm indicating such a malfunction sounded just before the crash, Graham told a news conference.
Additionally, two videos of the train obtained by NTSB investigators show that one of the cars may have had a broken or defective axle, Graham said Sunday.
The crew – an engineer, a conductor and a trainee conductor – were able to help bring the train to a halt Friday night and then disconnect its three engines from its cars, many of which were burning, officials said. No injuries were initially reported.
Vinyl chloride, which is highly flammable, is linked to an increased risk of cancer, and it can be unhealthy in terms of emitting an odor that humans can smell.
The chemical, which is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, vehicle upholstery and picnic utensils, has been linked to an increased risk of liver, brain and lung cancer, as well than some blood cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Environmental Protection Agency personnel have been in eastern Palestine since Friday evening monitoring the air and water, two EPA officials said at Sunday’s press conference.
In a statement on Saturday, the village in eastern Palestine said “zero health risk” had been discovered so far.
“The drinking water in the village is safe to drink and is continuously monitored,” he said.
The NTSB was leading the investigation.