Hundreds Flee Ill. Town After Derailment

TAMAROA, Ill. (AP) -- Cleanup crews worked to stabilize hazardous chemicals and right the cars of a freight train that derailed near the center of town and forced hundreds of people from their homes.

No injuries were reported after 21 cars of an Illinois Central-Canadian National train derailed Sunday morning in this southern Illinois town of 800, authorities said.

The train was carrying vinyl chloride, formaldehyde, hydrochloric acid and methanol, Perry County Sheriff Keith Kellerman said.

Authorities evacuated as many as 1,000 people within three miles of the derailment site. Officials closed the town's elementary school Monday and said residents could be out of their homes until Wednesday.

An emergency shelter was set up for evacuees at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall.

Melissa Grissom, 34, said police officers told her and her two children to leave their home.

``It looked bad ... but I didn't know it was that bad,'' Grissom said Sunday at the shelter.

The chemicals are hazardous to breathe and could cause death in high concentrations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many emergency workers were kept away from the trains because of the danger, Kellerman said.

Vinyl chloride leaking from one or two cars caught fire, said Kellerman and Canadian National spokesman Jack Burke. Leaking methanol also caught fire, Tamaroa village trustee William Place said.

Tests conducted upwind of the site indicated no air pollution, said Chris Cahnovsky, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency field worker.

Crews were checking for possible soil and groundwater contamination, said Dave Searby, operations officer for the DuQuoin Emergency Services and Disaster Agency.

``We don't know for sure how long it will be before people can return home,'' Searby said. He said state and local officials were working on a plan to tend to pets who were left behind.

The train, operated by a two-person crew, had about 100 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. Each car carried 24,000 pounds of chemicals.

Tamaroa is 28 miles north of Carbondale in southern Illinois.

Loading