Officials on Monday released toxic chemicals that had been carried on a train which derailed over the weekend in eastern Ohio, after warnings that the chemicals could be deadly if inhaled by the public in surrounding areas.
The release of vinyl chloride was completed late Monday afternoon after evacuations were expanded from East Palestine, Ohio, the site of Friday night’s derailment, to an adjacent community in Pennsylvania. Vinyl chloride is a toxic, flammable gas used to produce vehicle interiors and PVC piping, According to the train’s operator, Norfolk Southern, the release was “successfully completed, ” adding that a burn off of material would continue past nightfall.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Sunday night 500 people had defied orders to leave, but on Monday he believed all had left. The Ohio National Guard was deployed to the area late Sunday, and authorities went door-to-door urging stragglers to move out, DeWine said at a news conference Monday, warning: “those in the red area are facing grave danger of death if they are still in that area.” A federal Emergency Alert System message on Monday urged residents in East Palestine and Pennsylvania’s Darlington Township to leave immediately.
Officials said at the news conference that two of five train cars believed to be carrying vinyl chloride were likely filled with the gas, and temperature changes could have set it off, forcing officials to either release a gas known for its deadly potential if inhaled, or stand back for an extended period of time amid the potential for an explosion at the derailment site. “The vinyl chloride contents of five rail cars are currently unstable and could potentially explode, causing deadly disbursement of shrapnel and toxic fumes,” Gov. DeWine said.
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