US town evacuated as 50-car train accident sparks huge fire

An evacuation order was issued in a US town on Friday night after a 50-car train derailment resulted in a large fire. About 50 cars were derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, which is located near the Pennsylvania state line. There was no immediate information about what caused the derailment. No injuries have been reported so far, but the fire is still raging.

Firefighters have been pulled from the immediate area and unmanned stream devices are being used protectively while crews try to determine which cars are still actively burning, village officials said in a separate statement Saturday. They said they hoped to use drones to assess the scene in daylight, and warned that residents might hear more explosions as the fire burns.

Billows of smoke lit orange by the flames engulfed area. The village notified residents that an evacuation order remained in place Saturday morning for people within a mile of the scene. A high school and community center were opened to shelter dozens of people, while residents beyond that radius were urged to stay inside.

The few dozen residents sheltering at the high school included Ann McAnlis, who said a neighbor had texted her about the crash.

“She took a picture of the glow in the sky from the front porch,” McAnlis told WFMJ-TV. “That’s when I knew how substantial this was.”

Mayor Trent Conaway told reporters that firefighters from three states responded. The derailment happened about 51 miles (82 kilometers) northwest of Pittsburgh and within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of the tip of West Virginia’s Northern Panhandle.

Freezing temperatures in the single digits complicated the response as trucks pumping water froze, Conaway said.

Hazmat crews also responded to the scene to determine whether hazardous materials were involved, and air quality in the area is being monitored, officials said.

Authorities are yet to determine what, if any chemicals are burning in the 50 tankers that derailed and caught fire near the town before 9pm on Friday.

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