News & Reviews News Wire Ohio governor issues new evacuation order for East Palestine, warning of possible tank car explosion (updated)

Ohio governor issues new evacuation order for East Palestine, warning of possible tank car explosion (updated)

By Trains Staff | February 5, 2023

| Last updated on February 6, 2024

NTSB investigators indicate axle defect may have caused derailment

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Aerial view of burning freight cars
Freight cars continue to burn after the Friday night derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio. Village of East Palestine via Facebook

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and officials in Columbiana County have issued a new evacuation order tonight (Sunday, Feb. 5) for those within a mile of the site of Friday’s derailment of a Norfolk Southern train, warning of a possible tank car explosion, WHIO-TV reports.

Also, National Transportation Safety Board investigators have indicated an axle defect may have caused the derailment.

A notice posted on DeWine’s Twitter account warned that “a drastic temperature change has taken place in a rail car, and there is now the potential of a catastrophic tanker failure which could cause an explosion with the potential of deadly shrapnel traveling up to a mile.” It said DeWine had activated the Ohio National Guard at 8 p.m. EST to assist authorities in the area.

Earlier in the day, law-enforcement officers went door-to-door in the area under an earlier evacuation order, which covered an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 residents, asking those remaining to leave. More than 500 people had refused to do so, according to the governor’s office.

In a press briefing, East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway had urged people to stay away from the area.

“I don’t want to say it’s a dangerous situation,” Conaway said, according to a Washington Post report, “but it is still a very volatile situation.”

Conaway said one person had been arrested for going around barricades and approaching the crash site on Saturday night.

The fire involving some of the 50 cars that derailed Friday has continued to burn. The National Transportation Safety Board late Saturday revised earlier figures, the Associated Press reported, saying only 10 of the derailed cars carried hazardous material, including five with vinyl chloride. And they said that they had not confirmed that vinyl chloride had been released other than through pressure release devices operating as designed.

In a briefing today, the NTSB’s Michael Graham said investigators have obtained video which provides “preliminary indications of mechanical issues on one of the railcar axles,” and that the train’s crew had been informed of a defect from a wayside detector shortly before the derailment. Investigators have also identified the point where the derailment occurred, he said.

Emergency responders continued to monitor but keep their distance from the fire on Sunday. Schools and village offices will be closed Monday, with a possible extension of those closures to be determined Monday afternoon.

NS announced it had established a Family Assistance Center “to address the needs of the community and support those directly impacted,” and had made a $25,000 to the American Red Cross to support its efforts, including its temporary shelters. The AP reported about 75 people visited the NS center on Saturday and another 100 on Sunday morning.

The railroad also released a fact sheet listing the chemicals being carried by the train, WFMJ-TV reports. Along with vinyl chloride, cars were carrying butyl acrylate, a raw material for products such as plastics, paints, and sealants; benzene residue, and other combustible liquids, including non-hazardous materials. Other cars carried cargo such as wheat, plastic pellets, malt liquors, and lube oil. Some of the chemicals have been detected in local runoff and streams.

— Revised and updated at 8:50 p.m. with new evacuation order, warning of possible explosion; updated at 9:15 p.m. with information from NTSB on possible axle defect; updated at 5:40 p.m. CDT with information from NS about chemicals being carried by the derailed train.


2 thoughts on “Ohio governor issues new evacuation order for East Palestine, warning of possible tank car explosion (updated)

  1. How do railroad and car owners detect axle defects? I thought that wayside detectors pick up on bearing problems, though I get that a damaged axle could cause bearings to heat up.

    Some years ago, Feds were examining rail car – or at least tanker car safety standards. What ever came of that?

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