Train derailment in northeastern Ohio sparks massive fire

Feb 4, 2023, 2:17 PM
Flames erupt after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3. (Courtesy Kevin Csern...
Flames erupt after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3. (Courtesy Kevin Csernik)
(Courtesy Kevin Csernik)

(CNN) — A massive fire broke out after a train derailed Friday night in northeastern Ohio near the Pennsylvania state border, leading officials to issue evacuation and shelter-in-place orders for nearby residents.

No injuries were reported after the derailment in East Palestine, about 15 miles south of Youngstown, Mayor Trent Conaway said during a Friday night news conference.

On Saturday, he issued an emergency proclamation, saying the town had been “threatened” by unspecified hazardous materials potentially released in the accident.

The proclamation said the village “has been or is immediately threatened by a natural/man-made/technological hazard and or nuclear or conventional attack, and; at approximately 9:00 pm on Friday February 3, 2023 Norfolk Southern had a train derailment with hazardous materials.”

Conaway earlier told CNN’s Amara Walker that the train might have been carrying hazardous materials.

“As of right now air quality, even one street back is OK,” he said. The smell in the air is because of the fire, he said, but there are no concerns about air quality.

About 50 train cars derailed. Officials have not said what materials were being transported or what might have caused the fire after the derailment.

Officials issued a shelter-in-place order for the entire town of roughly 5,000 people, while an evacuation order was in effect within a mile of the train crossing at James Street as of early Saturday. Conaway said he did not know when those orders would be lifted.

Two evacuation stations have opened to provide shelter to residents, and the Red Cross has been notified, Conaway said.

Conaway on Saturday called for the “exercise of all necessary emergency authority for protection of lives and the property of the residents of the Village of East Palestine, Ohio.”

The proclamation also called on citizens to comply with the emergency measures.

In a Facebook post, the village said residents “may be experiencing low pressure or discoloration of water due to the high usage fighting the railroad fire but be assured that the water is perfectly fine and safe for consumption.”

Photos from the scene showed a large, dense cloud of smoke engulfing flames atop the train. Firefighters from three states, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia responded, according to Conaway.

The Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring air quality, Conaway noted.

Norfolk Southern Railway said in a statement it is aware of the derailment and was “coordinating closely” with local first responders while mobilizing their own teams.

“We will share more details as they become available,” the statement said.

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Train derailment in northeastern Ohio sparks massive fire