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Mississippi town evacuated after train derailment spills flammable chemicals

Published time: January 31, 2014 21:29
Reuters / Andrew Burton

Reuters / Andrew Burton

Dozens of families were forced from their southeastern Mississippi homes Friday after a train derailed, tipping over cars carrying fuel oil and methanol and causing officials to grow concerned about another potentially deadly chemical spill.

The Mississippi Department of Motor Vehicles announced that the train, which was traveling from Jackson, Miss. To Mobile, Ala., ran off the tracks at 9 A.M. local time (10 A.M. EST) and that no one was hurt in the incident outside New Augusta.

The approximately 50 people living within a half-mile radius of the accident were evacuated, though, because the train was hauling an ethanol-based product that spilled. Surrounding highways were also shutdown as a precaution because of ethanol's high flammability. Between 3,000 and 4,000 gallons were spilled, according to local estimates.

“Dozens of families were forced from their southeastern Mississippi homes Friday after a train derailed, tipping over cars carrying fuel oil and methanol and causing officials to grow concerned about another potentially deadly chemical spill.,” Sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith told WDAM-TV in New Augusta. “We are just trying to get everything detained and cleaned up.”

The American Red Cross was on hand to give shelter to those forced from their homes, with disaster program manager Angie Grajeda saying, “Residents should pack as if they are going on a small one-to-two day camping trip.”

If the evacuation seemed to some like an over-reaction that could be because 2013 was a tough year for the railroad industry. Recently unveiled federal data compiled by the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration found that more crude oil spilled from trains in the last year alone that over the previous 37 years combined.