MARYVILLE (WATE) – Officials with railroad company says the fire has been extinguished after thousands of Maryville residents evacuated their homes late Wednesday night after a freight train car carrying flammable and poisonous material caught on fire.
According to the Blount County Sheriff’s Office, a CSX single-tank car carrying 24,000 gallons of acrylonitrile, a liquid petroleum, derailed and caught on fire at Mount Tabor Road at Old Mount Tabor Road around midnight. Acrylonitrile, also used in plastic, is an flammable and poisonous gas.
CSX says as of 7 p.m. the fire has been put out and personnel are assessing that rail car and others as part of the recovery process. Officials continue to monitor air, soil and water in the area. Twenty-one cars remain on site pending track repairs, while 35 have been removed.
The train was en route from Cincinnati, Ohio to Waycross, Georgia. According to CSX, the train consisted of two locomotives and 57 cars; 27 of those cars were carrying the hazardous material, according to a statement by CSX.
Ten first responders were taken to Blount Memorial Hospital for decontamination, said hospital staff member Josh West. He told WATE 6 On Your Side 87 residents have been seen in total, and 36 of them were admitted as of 9 p.m. West says most of them were suffering from irritants or pulmonary issues. None had life threatening problems. The others were either discharged or treated in the emergency room and released.
The remaining residents are under observation in the emergency department.
About 5,000 people, housed within a 1.5 mile radius of the incident, were evacuated. Denso Manufacturing closed down Thursday morning, due to its proximity to the incident site. Several other businesses and school in the area also closed their doors.
For an updated list of business and school closings, click here.
Evacuations could last between 24 and 48 hours, according to the Blount County Sheriff’s Department. Officials would not speculate at a 4 p.m. press conference when residents can return home but said it would not be Thursday night.
Web Extra: List of Evacuated Streets [XLS]
Crews were still in the process of controlling the fire as of 4:30 p.m.
Hundreds of people relocated to the Foothills Mall. Others were housed in a shelter opened by CSX at Heritage High School, 3741 East Lamar Alexander Parkway. CSX officials say its Outreach Center at Heritage High will closed at 10 p.m. Thursday night and relocate to Heritage Middle School Friday morning. It will reopen at 8 a.m. until 8 p.m.
“It’s scary to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning to someone saying, ‘hey, there’s this chemical gas on the train.’ And knowing it’s right behind where we live,” said evacuee Christina Cody.
“I really appreciate the Red Cross and everyone that’s been doing everything for us. I appreciate it so much,” said evacuee Jennifer Bales.
A shelter for pets was also opened at the Blount County Animal Shelter. Shelter employees asked for foster owners to pull out their animals to make room for displaced pets.
During a meeting with displaced residents at Heritage High, CSX representative Lee Miller apologized saying environment and hazmat crews are “working diligently” to get the situation taken care of. CSX provided hygiene items, baby wipes and good to residents.
CSX is also offering reimbursement for families who are in hotels. Lee said for residents to keep receipts and identification to verify their address to make sure it’s within evacuation radius.
A statement from the Federal Railroad Administration said the agency had investigators and hazmat inspectors at the scene.
Once it is safe, FRA will begin a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the derailment.
If residents have questions, the FRA prompts them to call 1-800-331-4031.
The Blount County Sheriff’s Office warns residents south of Robert C. Jackson Drive to Friendsville refrain from drinking well water. If you use well water and are in need, CSX is providing bottled water for people in the area. The pickup site is at Heritage Middle School.
CSX says air monitoring is underway and water monitoring is being established. The Environmental Protection Agency says it has been monitoring the air since 7 a.m. and levels are currently at “background levels.”
Residents in the area are asked to call 865-273-3406 if they have any questions.
Lending a hand
All East Tennessee YMCA’s are open for evacuated residents to take a shower.
If you are interested in volunteering, call the Red Cross Knoxville office at 865-584-2999.
The crews, hospitals and EMS departments in Chattanooga are sending “Cyano Kits” to first responders and medical personnel. The kits are antidotes for cyanide poisoning and will be flown via LifeForce, if weather permits, or taken by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, according to the Chattanooga Fire Department.
– Mt. Tabor Road at Old Mt. Tabor Road
– U.S. Highway 321 at William Blount Drive, going to Maryville.
– Foothills Mall Drive
– Middlesettlements Road & Louisville Road are both closed to incoming traffic.
The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates the roads to reopen at 5:45 p.m. on Friday.