TAMAROA, Ill. - As many as 1,000 residents forced to leave their homes when a freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in the middle of town might not be allowed to return before Wednesday, an official said Monday.
Dave Searby, operations officer for the Du Quoin Emergency Services and Disaster Agency, said work crews remained on the site of the derailment but that it was not clear how much of the chemicals had been cleaned up.
Sixteen cars from an Illinois Central-Canadian National freight train went off the tracks and caught fire at about 9 a.m. Sunday near the center of this town, about 65 miles southeast of St. Louis.
There were no reports of injuries, but authorities evacuated as many as 1,000 people in a three-mile area. Officials ordered the town's elementary school to remain closed on Monday.
The train had been carrying vinyl chloride, formaldehyde and hydrochloric acid, Perry County Sheriff Keith Kellerman said.
Melissa Grissom, 34, said police officers asked her and her two children to evacuate their home near the derailment.
"It looked bad ... but I didn't know it was that bad," said Grissom, as she stood Sunday in an emergency shelter set up for evacuees at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall in Du Quoin.
The chemicals are hazardous to breathe and could cause death in high concentrations, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many emergency workers were kept away from the trains because of the danger, Kellerman said.
The vinyl chloride leaked from one or two cars and caught fire, said Kellerman and Canadian National spokesman Jack Burke.
Tamaroa village trustee William Place said methanol also was being carried by the train and caught fire.
Air tests conducted upwind of the site indicated no air pollution caused by the derailment, said Chris Cahnovsky, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency field worker.
Crews were checking for possible soil and groundwater contamination, said Searby.
"We don't know for sure how long it will be before people can return home," Searby said. He said state and local officials also were working on a plan to tend to pets left behind in the evacuation.
The train, operated by a two-person crew, likely had 100 or more cars, Burke said. He said chemical-hauling trains typically roll north from Louisiana to Chicago or to a switching point in Effingham for movement elsewhere.
Officials were expected to continue working Monday to stabilize the chemicals and then right the derailed trains.
One resident taking shelter in a local community center said emergency workers told her it could be as many as three days before she and her family would be allowed to return home.
"There's nothing you can do about it, so it's not worth getting upset about," Elizabeth Stein said.
The derailment also caused some Amtrak delays. Some trains were detoured and passengers were bused along the route, which is popular with students from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.
Train derailed yesterday approximately 75 miles southeast of St. Louis. Approximately 22 cars carrying various chemicals were involved. (3 cars of formaldehyde, 7 cars of Methanol, 5 cars of polyvinyl chloride and 2 cars of HCL). The PVC cars were involved in a fire.
Many cars are leaking in unknown quantities. Approximately 800 people have been evacuated. EPA and other authorities are doing monitoring and defensive containment.
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02-10-2003, 11:49 AM #1
- Join Date
- May 2002
- St. Louis Area
Tamaroa residents hope to return home after derailment
02-11-2003, 03:18 PM #2
- Join Date
- Jul 1999
- DuBois, IL - just south of I-64 in the middle of the state
I'm 6 miles North of Tamaroa and my dept. was one of the first called to help Sunday. I'm just glad it didn't happen 10 minutes later. The train would have been right in my backyard. We stood by from about 1000 until 1900.
Some residents have gotten to go back home. The evacuated area was shrunk from 3 miles to 1 mile at 1:00 PM today. The car of vinyl chloride has been offloaded to another car and removed. An explosion at about 3 AM today resulted in a fire that was extinguished about 9:30. Reports are that 2 FFs were injured in the blast. I can't confirm that. The fire was in a tank car carrying methanol.
There were no serious injuries prior to this morning. A couple of residents were treated and released following the derailment.
US Hwy. 51 remains closed from about 6 miles North of Tamaroa to 4 miles South. Local traffic is all that is allowed on that stretch.
Hopefully they will have no other problems cleaning up the cars that overturned. It sounds like it may take a while before the residents are allowed back in town. About 800 people are still affected by the evacuation order.Jack Boczek, Chief
Ashley Community Fire Protection District
02-13-2003, 10:56 AM #3
- Join Date
- May 2002
- St. Louis Area
More people should be allowed to return home today if they have removed enough contaminated dirt to satisfy the IEPA and if residents get their homes tested. Most residents wanted the homes tested before returning. I was on one of the teams that assisted Tamaroa FD with the incident. None of the fireman were seriously injured during the mitigation. It is amazing that 21 plus cars of chemicals didn't cause major collateral damage in heart of the city. I spent hours in people's backyards looking at the pile up. Tamaroa FD was very hospitable to everyone which helped in the tense climate. The media once again didnít get the facts right. There were 5 chemicals involved in the accident not 3. The Governor paid a visit to the command center for a little while and flew over the site. This was the first use the Statewide MABAS system for none disaster incident. I would not be surprised if a few investigations occur over this derailment. Coincidentally 4 derailments have occurred with in 72 and within 125 miles in southern Illinois. Tamaroa, Ill then Sparta, Ill then Pinckneyville, Ill then Dupo, Ill. It was a good decision for the FD to request assistance from departments and teams experienced with incidents of this nature. I hope other local departments will request demonstrations and training on WMD, HAZMAT, disasters and other incidents or crisis that may overwhelm their resources and training.
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