CSX Train Derailment, Fire In Tennessee Leads To Thousands of Evacuations

More than 5,000 people were evacuated from a Tennessee town last week, after a CSX train carrying flammable and hazardous chemicals derailed, sending at least 87 people to a nearby hospital to be treated for breathing and irritation issues. 

A two mile radius surrounding the crash scene was evacuated by local authorities in the town of Maryville, Tennessee after a 57-car CSX train carrying 27 cars of acrylonitrile, a hazardous material that’s flammable and dangerous if inhaled, derailed on Wednesday. Local authorities claimed that no one was killed in the crash, but as many as 87 people were reportedly treated and 36 were admitted at the nearby Blount Memorial Hospital with respiratory issues, skin irritation, and nausea.

The Federal Railroad Administration is investigating the accident, but the cause of the derailment is not known at this time.

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Homes and businesses were evacuated during the early hours of Thursday morning between 12 and 6:00 a.m. after hazardous chemical smoke filled the air, first responders reported. According to City Manager Greg McClain, a two-mile radius surrounding the crash site in eastern Tennessee was evacuated but was later reduced to a mile and a half radius after air samples were collected by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials.

Blount County firefighters reportedly had to allow the blazing cars to burn themselves out after receiving advice from specialists that the acrylonitrile chemical could cause additional hazards if they tried to extinguish the fire. CSX reported the tanker cars continued to burn into the evening hours Thursday night.

The CSX train traveling from Cincinnati, Ohio to Waycross, Georgia was carrying roughly 24,000 gallons of acrylonitrile in 27 of the train cars. Acrylonitrile is a hazardous and flammable material that is used for manufacturing plastics and other industrial processes and can be extremely harmful if inhaled or exposed to the chemicals toxins.

The EPA began taking air quality samples shortly after the crash, prompting officials to initiate the evacuation. The evacuation order was lifted on Friday, according to a CSX press release.

Additional tests performed by the EPA indicate the hazardous products did not appear to make it into a nearby creek.

More than 5,000 residents were displaced following the accident, forcing people to stay with friends and family outside of the evacuation radius and roughly 100 people were sheltered at Heritage High School in Maryville early Thursday morning. Red Cross responded to the resident displacement by setting up shelters and offering bottled water and meals to evacuees.

CSX has announced that it will offer displaced residents assistance and reimbursement for hospital visit costs and lodging.


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