A CSX freight train laden with hazardous materials derailed in Southwestern Pennsylvania Wednesday morning, igniting fires and forcing the evacuation of an entire town.
According to the Associated Press, at least 32 cars of the CSX freight train careened off the tracks in Hyndman, Pennsylvania, destroying the garage of a residence. A CSX spokesman said at least one of the cars carrying gasoline and one laden with molten sulfur spilled and caught fire.
Authorities investigating the accident haven’t determined what caused the train to derail. It’s also unclear how extensive the damage is.
According to the AP, the residential garage is the only confirmed structure fire, but “aerial footage of the derailment shows a number of cars stacked nearly perpendicular to the tracks while others landed in a burning, zig-zag pattern in a residential area where some structures seemed crushed and others ablaze.”
A mandatory evacuation was ordered for the town of Hyndman. A few people took shelter in two nearby churches while others stayed with friends and relatives or in a hotel. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that about 1,000 residents would be spending a second night in area hotels. Some of the town’s residents refused to leave their homes, Governor Tom Wolf told the AP. No injuries were reported.
The fire burned for hours, hindering removal of the derailed train cars and the cleanup. Hazmat teams were deployed to the scene, but it is uncertain how long cleanup and remediation of the site will take. Officials are monitoring the air and sampling the ground to determine the possible impacts on the environment and public health.
The crash also forced Amtrak to suspend its regular train service from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. The railroad provided buses to shuttle passengers between the train stations in the two cities. Several roads in the area are also closed.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials are expected to arrive Thursday to open an investigation.