Kansas Neighborhood Evacuated After Train Derails

SOUTH HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) -- Two tanker cars carrying a highly flammable liquid jumped the tracks late Tuesday, forcing evacuations of 40 to 50 nearby homes, authorities said.

Crews worked Wednesday to clean up fuel that spilled from one of the tanker cars, said South Hutchinson Police Chief Scott Jones, and were able to minimize the danger. No injuries were reported.

Crews worked into the evening Wednesday to upright the second derailed cars, which was still filled with fuel, Jones said.

The 17-car Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad train was headed to Hutchinson from Wichita when the tankers and an empty grain car derailed around 10:40 p.m. Tuesday in a small residential area, said Jim Wineland, general manager of the K&O.

One of the tankers tipped, spilling 30,000 gallons of ethanol into a nearby water-filled ditch, Jones said.

The city of about 2,500 people is south of Hutchinson in south-central Kansas. Evacuees were housed in the South Hutchinson Christian Church; Red Cross volunteer Scott Neher said 36 people stayed at the church Tuesday night.

For Wednesday night, the railroad company got hotel rooms and food vouchers for evacuees, Jones said. The evacuees were escorted home briefly, one family at a time, to get belongings.

Classes at a nearby elementary school were also canceled Wednesday, and area businesses and government offices were closed. All were expected to reopen Thursday.

''Our biggest concern is that this denatured alcohol doesn't find an ignition source,'' Jones said. ''It's obviously very flammable.''

He said sand and foam were poured onto the spill to help prevent the ethanol from igniting.

Eric and Stacey Ferrell said firefighters woke them up about 12:30 a.m., saying the area was being evacuated, and they went to the shelter with their three children, ages 12, 8 and 4.

''We woke them up, told them we had to get out,'' Eric Ferrell said. ''They all seemed to be pretty calm.''

A hazardous material team and firefighters from the South Hutchinson and Hutchinson departments secured the spill, Jones said.

''When we first approached,'' he said, ''the smell was pretty strong.''

Jones said he didn't know what caused the derailment.

The K&O is a shortline railroad, owned by Pittsburg-based Watco Cos. It began operations in 2001 on 900 miles of track in south-central and western Kansas.