Ohio train derailment: residents still unable to return home almost a week after

Ohio train derailment: residents still unable to return home almost a week after
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About 50 wagons left the tracks, 10 of which carried hazardous materials. The cause of the accident is still unknown.

After 50 wagons of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed and caught fire with chemicals last Friday, a mandatory evacuation was issued on Sunday for residents within a one-mile radius of East Palestine, a village of nearly 5,000 people. However, it is still unclear when residents will be able to return to their homes.

Rail operator Norfolk Southern and the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the train was carrying 10 cars of dangerous materials. Of most concern were five derailed rail wagons containing vinyl chloride. This substance is a man-made chemical used to make PVC and burns easily at room temperature. It can cause dizziness, sleepiness, and headaches and has been linked to an increased risk of liver, brain, lung, and blood cancers. Residents near the accident site have been pre-evacuated due to health risks from the fumes.

According to Norfolk Southern, however, the wagons that contained vinyl chloride are no longer burning. On Sunday night, the burning wreckage threatened a catastrophic explosion capable of spewing toxic fumes and firing shrapnel up to a mile away. The burning then subsided after a controlled release of an unstable, toxic chemical at the site of the train derailment on Monday. Using charges, small holes were blown in each car, allowing vinyl chloride to spill into a trench lined with flares.

The cause of the derailment remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, but indications point to a mechanical failure. Shortly before the derailment, the crew received an alarm from the wayside defect detector and emergency braking was subsequently applied.

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