Toxic chemical substances have been released into the air in East Palestine, Ohio, during a large controlled explosion at the site of the train derailment.
Crews at the scene conducted the release of the hazardous chemicals – including vinyl chloride – from five of the derailed tanker cars that were in danger of exploding just after 3.30pm on Monday.
Two of the five cars that were detonated were completely polymerized in the dangerous incident – as the fireball exploded and black smoke wafted through the air.
One of the major causes for concern was the presence of vinyl chloride inside train. The substance is highly toxic and can cause acid burns in the lungs when ingested.
Authorities have been issuing forced evacuations of the surrounding areas for the last few days – warning that there would be hellish shrapnel rain and chemical destruction if the cars were to have exploded on their own accord.
This was the explosion caused by the controlled release of the toxic chemicals at the site of the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio
Local officials strategically detonated the five train cars with vinyl chloride
After the controlled explosion, local officials said the fire ‘reduced’ and the flames have become more manageable but that they are waiting for it to cool off to move in.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had previously issued a grave warning to residents in the city that sits near the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, saying the fallout could be drastic for those who choose not to heed the warnings.
‘You need to leave, you just need to leave. This is a matter of life and death,’ said DeWine at a press conference.
‘Vinyl chloride in of itself is cancerous. Some of the other stuff is just as bad,’ hazardous materials specialist Silverio Caggiano told WKBN.
‘The hydrogen chloride is bad enough that when you inhale it, it mixes with the water in your lungs and you could have acid burns in your lungs,’ Caggiano said.
Another major cause for concerns is that the burning on the substances released from the train cars will send phosgene- a highly toxic gas that can cause vomiting and breathing trouble- into the air.
The substance is so dangerous it was used as a weapon during World War I.
After the controlled release of the toxic chemicals began, officials said two of the train cars were completely pulverized.
Before the release of the toxic chemicals began Monday, officials were knocking on doors to ensure all residents had evacuated.
Some 2,400 residents were warned to leave immediately.
The explosion completely pulverized two of the train cars
Photos and videos could only be taken from a distance outside of the evacuation zone
This was the original site after the crash Friday evening
This was the massive plume of smoke over East Palestine, Ohio Monday after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in eastern Ohio
The fire and smoke has been constant in the area since Friday evening after the crash
This is the evacuation map released by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s office
‘You need to leave, you just need to leave. This is a matter of life and death,’ said Gov. DeWine at a press conference
Another view of the massive plume of smoke coming from the train derailment in Ohio
DeWine shared an updated map showing the evacuation zone Monday afternoon
East Palestine is located right near the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania
This is an overhead shot of some of the train cars damaged in the derailment
Five of the cars involved in the crash were transporting the vinyl chloride, which is used to make the polyvinyl chloride hard plastic resin.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the substance is also associated with liver and other cancers.
The Ohio Emergency Management Agency and other officials had previously stated they believed all residents in the affected area were gone.
In Ohio, areas at risk include eastern East Palestine, including Parker, South Pleasant, BFI Access Road, Taggart Street, North Pleasant Road, Failor Road, and East Martin.
The expanded evacuation zone stretched into Pennsylvania, impacting 20 homes, according to Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro.
Pennsylvania State Police also went door-to-door to warn and assist residents.
It is unknown at this time when residents will be able to return to their homes.
Scott Deutsch with the Norfolk Southern Railway said releasing the chemicals during the daytime would allow the fumes to disperse more quickly.
Officials are also hoping they can avoid any shrapnel or debris that may fly from the property injuring anyone in the impacted zone.
‘We can’t control where that goes,’ said Deutsch.
Deutsch initially estimated the release could take up to three hours.
After an initial effort to extinguish the fire on Friday night fire crews pulled back and employed unmanned devices as they tried to locate which cars remained on fire
Ten of the cars that derailed carried hazardous materials, according to officials
An employee of HEPACO works in a creek along Sumner Street in downtown East Palestine, Ohio after the derailment of the train
The process officials used made small holes in the train cars.
The material was then drained into a trench where it was burned before being released in the air.
According to Deutsch, crews performing this release have done this before.
Police cars, snow plows and military vehicles from the Ohio National Guard were spotted blocking streets in the area Monday.
Caggiano echoed the sentiments made by local and state officials.
‘They [the chemicals] could kill you because of the damage they could do to your respiratory system. Because most of the damage with this is going to be inhalatory. So this is some bad stuff,’ Caggiano said.
Police cars, snow plows and military vehicles from the Ohio National Guard were spotted blocking streets in the area Monday
Although the train derailment itself took place Friday, fires and smoke were still billowing high into the sky well into Monday.
The Norfolk Southern train was transporting cargo from Madison, Illinois to Conway, Pennsylvania when it derailed.
According to first responders, the train consisted of 141 load cars, nine were empty, three were locomotives and ten in total contained hazardous material.
Officials had originally asked anyone living within a one-mile radius of the scene to leave and established an evacuation center at East Palestine High School, which was being staffed by the American Red Cross.
An evacuation center was set up at East Palestine High School which was being staffed by the American Red Cross
Residents are now stranded and waiting to find out if their homes are okay
Quickly after the crash, local authorities were urging residents to get out.
‘I can’t stress enough that if you’re in the evacuation zone, you need to leave,’ the village mayor Trent Conaway on Sunday.
‘Please stay away from East Palestine,’ Conway said. ‘Please stay away from the wreck. I don’t want to say it’s a dangerous situation, but it is still a very volatile situation.’
Firefighters had initially attempted to extinguish the blaze but faced complications.
Efforts were cut off, however, as concerns over the toxins grew.
As of Monday, no injuries or deaths have been reported.
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