GRANITEVILLE, S.C. (AP) -- At least four people died and more than 200 were treated for respiratory and other ailments after two trains crashed here Thursday morning, derailing 16 cars and spilling a hazardous chemical gas, Aiken County officials said.
Sheriff's Lt. Michael Frank said one person was found dead at home and another body was found in a vehicle. Norfolk Southern spokesman Robin Chapman confirmed that a third person, a train engineer, was among the dead. No information was released on the fourth fatality. Causes of death were not immediately known.
Gov. Mark Sanford said after touring the area from the air that he saw a human body near the site, but it was unclear whether that was one of the four reported dead or an additional fatality.
The injured were taken to area hospitals and most were treated then released, hospital spokeswomen said. At least 45 people were admitted; eight of those were in critical condition Thursday night.
The accident happened about 2:30 a.m. near Avondale Mill in this textile town near the Georgia state line. A Norfolk Southern freight train with three locomotives and 42 rail cars struck a locomotive with two parked rail cars, Chapman said.
He said three cars on the moving train were carrying chlorine and there was a release of a gas cloud. He did not know where the train was going.
An engineer was killed, Chapman said, and the other crew member on the moving train was taken to a hospital after inhaling chlorine. The condition of the crew member was unavailable Thursday afternoon.
No one was aboard the parked train.
One of the loose cars struck a tree, knocked it onto a car and trapped a woman inside for about two hours, Frank said. The woman was removed and taken to a hospital for treatment. Her condition also was unavailable.
Sanford declared a state of emergency for the county, activating the State Emergency Operations Center and making state resources available.
As the sun began to set, authorities ordered all residents within one mile of the crash site _ about 5,400 _ to evacuate. Frank said about a dozen refused to leave.
State Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Thom Berry said chlorine fumes were still leaking out and would be settling near the ground as temperatures dropped Thursday night. He was unsure when the leak might be sealed.
Evacuees who did not have a friend or relative to stay with were being gathered at shelters in the area, including one at the University of South Carolina-Aiken where officials had set up a decontamination station earlier in the day.
The Federal Aviation Administration imposed temporary flight restrictions in the area. The no-fly zone covered a five-mile radius around the site up to 3,000 feet, FAA spokesman Christopher White said. The area was not large enough to affect commercial traffic.
Berry said DHEC was conducting air tests and teams were dispatched into Graniteville to conduct door-to-door well-being checks and alert residents about the evacuation. All but one of the 10 teams had reported in by 6:30 p.m., Frank said.
There were at least three hazardous chemicals on the train, Berry said, but officials were most concerned about the chlorine gas, which affects respiratory and central nervous systems. It can damage the throat, nose, eyes and can cause death.
Frank said emergency workers found Graniteville residents walking outdoors Thursday morning and warned them to stay inside. Temperatures in the area were well above average with overnight lows in the 50s and highs in the mid-70s Thursday, so residents were told to close their doors and windows and shut off air-conditioning or heating systems.
Douglas Brown, 44, lives two streets away from the railroad tracks. He said he heard a boom that shook his house and heard the sound of metal dragging about 2:30 a.m.
Brown got in his car and drove to the site of the crash. He said he saw a fog over the ground.