State of Emergency Declared in KY Train Derailment

Nov. 23, 2023
Officials say 16 train cars derailed, including two carrying molten sulphur, in Rockcastle County and the fire continues to burn Thursday morning.

Karla Ward
Lexington Herald-Leader

Chemicals spilled in a train derailment in Rockcastle County continued to burn Thursday morning.

Gov. Andy Beshear has declared a state of emergency, and residents of Livingston and the surrounding area were urged to evacuate after multiple cars of a CSX train derailed, Beshear’s office said in a news release.

Sixteen rail cars, two of which were carrying molten sulphur, derailed north of Livingston at 2:23 p.m., CSX said in a statement late Wednesday. The company said some of the sulphur had spilled and was burning.

CSX said in an update Thursday morning that they, along with first responders, had worked through the night to try to put the fire out, but it was still ablaze as of 7:30 a.m.

In addition to the cars carrying sulphur, the company said two other cars were loaded with magnesium hydroxide, “but there is no indication that these cars were breached. The remaining cars were either empty or carrying non-hazardous products like grain or plastic.”

The company continued to urge residents of the area to evacuate.

“When molten sulphur burns it is known to release sulphur dioxide,” CSX said in the statement late Wednesday. “Specialized equipment is being deployed to conduct air monitoring in the area. CSX is in close contact with the Rockcastle county emergency teams as they continue to assess the situation and we appreciate their swift response. We will work together with the local authorities to secure the area and safety is our top priority as we develop a recovery plan.

“CSX encourages residents in proximity to the incident who are concerned about their safety to utilize the lodging that the company has secured in Mt. Vernon, KY,” CSX said in the statement. “In addition to the hotels, the CSX team is working with local restaurants to provide meals for affected residents.”

The governor urged people to “please stay clear of this area as state, local and CSX officials respond.”

U.S. 25 was closed between Calloway Branch Road and the Laurel County line, WYMT reported Wednesday night.

In addition to residents of Livingston, people in Piney Branch were also asked to evacuate “as a precautionary measure,” state Sen. Brandon Storm, whose district includes Rockcastle County, said in a news release Wednesday night.

He said no casualties were reported, just one engineer sustained minor injuries and “the impacted area appears remote. For all of this, we can be thankful.”

The Energy and Environment Cabinet Emergency Response Team has responded to the scene, and the Kentucky Emergency Operations Center has been activated, the governor’s office said in its news release.

“By issuing a state of emergency, we are ensuring that every state resource is available to help keep our families safe,” Beshear said in the release.

Storm said he is committed “to working closely with all relevant parties to provide timely updates and address any concerns.

“I will closely monitor the cleanup to ensure the well-being of our community,” he said in the release.

CSX said it will cover the cost for “concerned residents” who wish to stay at the Quality Inn on Wilderness Road or the Haven Inn on Richmond Street in Mount Vernon. They said residents can eat at the Derby City South Truck Stop on Richmond Street or the Limestone Grill on Holt Drive. For more information, CSX said people can call 800-805-9840.

A temporary shelter also was set up at Rockcastle County Middle School. Rockcastle County Schools said in a Facebook post Wednesday night that cots, food, water and a pet trailer were available “for all community members in need.”

This article may be updated as more information becomes available.

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