Dangerous Gas Release After Bridge Collapse
Updated: Hazard eased. More information posted – scroll down.
A DANGEROUS TRAIN DERAILMENT IN SOUTHERN NEW JERSEY this morning is releasing vinyl chloride fumes and has triggered an evacuation in Paulsboro, Gloucester County.
(South Jersey Times / Stevenson)
From the early reports that are just coming in we have learned:
- A railroad bridge over Mantua Creek collapsed under a train around 7:15 am.
- Several cars have derailed and four of them landed in the creek.
- An unknown number of tank cars are leaking vinyl chloride, a highly-flammable and toxic gas.
- Almost immediately, several people began having breathing difficulties and about 20 have been transported.
- An evacuation zone of ½-mile radius initially was set up.
- The Coast Guard has closed off the creek and airspace restrictions are in place.
ConrailCSX is the railroad involved.
The South Jersey Times is also reporting that this is the same bridge that collapsed in August 2009 as a 50-car coal train passed over it, spilling 16 cars into the water.
The Philadelphia Fox News station has posted some raw video taken from their helicopter:
The South Jersey Times is on the scene and should be updating regularly HERE.
Update, 4:30 pm:
The immediate threat has eased and rail officials are trying to determine what caused the derailment. Whether the bridge collapse causded the derailment, of the derailing rail cars caused the bridge to fail will take some time to determine.
The train – now identified as a CSX Railroad train operating on Conrail trackage - had 84 cars in its consist. Of the seven or eight that went off the tracks, four of them were tankers carrying vinyl chloride in liquid form. Only one of the tankers was leaking and it appears to have ceased, so the main hazard is over. USA Today reports:
"There are cars that are in precarious position," Larry Hajna, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman said at a briefing. "When they have to start moving these cars, you want to make sure they're protected."
The vinyl chloride leak from that car appears to have stopped, Hajna said. "It doesn't appear to be any immense threat" now, he said.
The train with two locomotives, 82 freight cars and a caboose was making its way from Camden to the industrial town of Paulsboro, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia International Airport. Cars went off the rails on a swing-style bridge, owned by Conrail, over Mantua Creek. One tanker containing 25,000 gallons of vinyl chloride was sliced open in the accident and some of the gas spewed into the air, while the rest turned into a solid and settled into the bottom of the tanker.
People who live nearby said the air was smoky and had a sweet chemical smell for part of the morning. More than 40 people were hospitalized, most complaining of breathing problems after the accident. Eleven people were transported to Underwood-Memorial Hospital, and 31 more arrived on their own, according to spokeswoman Karen Urbaniak.
By late morning, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna said that sensors were not measuring any amounts of the chemical at the site.By late morning, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna said that sensors were not measuring any amounts of the chemical at the site.
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