Homes evacuated in Pennsylvania after Norfolk Southern freight train derails
A freight train carrying a chemical used for dry cleaning derailed in southeastern Pennsylvania Monday morning, causing road closures and a mass evacuation.
The 40-car CSX train derailed near Stenton Avenue and Joshua Road in Plymouth Meeting just before 5am, thrusting 15 of its cars off a section of track owned by Norfolk Southern.
Roughly a dozen homes in the suburb 15 miles from Philly have since been evacuated, as well as several businesses closest to the derailment site.
Sources told local stations these precautions – as well as a Level 2 hazmat response – stemmed from the fact that 15 to 20 cars were believed to be carrying hazardous materials.
In a statement some three hours after the crash, police said the only material leaking out of the train at the moment was silicone pellets, which Norfolk Southern said poses no threat to the public. There’s no word on what caused the derailment, though it had been raining when it occurred.
Scroll down for video:
The 40-car freight train (seen here) derailed near Stenton Avenue and Joshua Road in Whitemarsh Township just before 5 am, sending roughly half of its cars of the tracks. Residents in more than a dozen homes have since been evacuated as a precautionary measure
Sources told local stations these precautions – as well as a Level 2 hazmat response – stemmed from the fact that 15 to 20 cars were believed to be carrying hazardous materials. Containers the train had been carrying – one of which reportedly was leaking – are seen here
‘Whitemarsh Emergency Services is investigating the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in the Plymouth Meeting section of Whitemarsh Township,’ the local police department said in a Facebook post around 7am.
The 28-person police force added: ‘Precautionary evacuations have occurred at the residents and businesses closest to the scene. It is not believed that further evacuations will be needed, but we will evaluate as we know more.’
Earlier in the morning, CSX added in a statement that 16 of the trains 40 rail cars derailed, including one carrying tetrachloroethylene – a chemical commonlly used to clean clothes that could prove carcinogenic.
During a later conference on Monday morning, officials on the scene said 15 cars derailed – one containing the tetrachloroethylene, another holding the packing pellets and five carting the liquid fertilizer urea.
Officials added the eight remaining cars were empty, and that residents were allowed to back into their homes at 9:30 am, with the area deemed safe to inhabit.
Aside from some of the silicon pellets, they said no hazardous materials leaked from any of the other train cars.
Shocking photos and footage, meanwhile, show some of the damage wrought by the disaster – with several cars and tankers seen toppled in a wooded area bounded by Flourtown Road, Joshua Road, and Stenton Avenue.
Several containers carrying unspecified substances were seen on the ground, with one appearing to be leaking. Other aerials showed takers that had been apparently smashed together, and parts of twisted track.
There are no known injuries at this time, but officials from Norfolk Southern – who owns the track where the incident occurred – CSX, and the Montgomery County Department of Public Safety’s Emergency Response Team were all on the scene.
In a statement, Norfolk Southern – which has faced scrutiny this year for a series of high-profile derailments this year – confirmed it does not own the train affected the latest derailment.
CSX – which also operates chiefly in the Eastern United States – did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a general statement, the railroad company confirmed the 40-car train derailed around 4:50am, but did not specify the exactly what the freighter had been carrying.
An unspecified number of residents in the suburb 15 miles from Philly have been evacuated, as well as several businesses closest to the derailment site
Shocking photos and footage, meanwhile, show some of the damage wrought by the disaster
Several cars and tankers seen toppled in a wooded area in the Pennsylvania suburb, which is not far from Philadelphia
In a statement some three hours after the crash, police in the town of roughly 18,000 said the only material leaking out of the train at the moment was silicone pellets, which pose no threat to the public. There’s no word on what caused the derailment.
Law enforcement sources at first told FOX29 Philadelphia that the derailed cars – of which there are at least 16 – were carrying silicone pellets, a material used for packing.
As reports an unknown white substance leaking from the cracked carrier continued to surface, officials eventually confirmed they had found some silicone pellets leaking from the cars, but that they don’t pose any danger to the public.
‘As of now, the only thing that is leaking from any of the rail cars involved is silicone pellets, which pose no risk to the community,’ Whitemarsh Township police said in a statement.
There has yet to be any other reports of materials leaking from the train’s derailed cars. Police said they don’t believe a further evacuation – aside from the ones in the on the 5000 block of Camburn Road – will be required.
While it is unknown exactly how many residents of the town of 6,400 have been evacuated, several are now recounting how they were thrust from their homes in the wee hours Monday after the train came of the rails.
‘Alarming. It all happened really fast,’ Mallory Michener told CBS News Philadelphia of the disaster. She and her daughter were among several evacuees who were awoken by pounding as fears of a toxic spill were still right.
‘We all don’t have shoes on.’
While it is unknown exactly how many residents of the town of 6,400 have been evacuated, several are now recounting how they were thrust from their homes in the wee hours Monday after the train came of the rails. Several sections of the suburb remained closed off at 10:30am
Her daughter added: ‘Right as you hear the door at 5:30 in the morning, it’s a little shocking.
‘And yeah, it was just scary. First thought for me always goes to my family and friends.’
CSX later confirmed that more than a dozen homes were evacuated during the chaos.
‘The local fire department responded and declared an evacuation of just over a dozen homes out of an abundance of caution,’ the rail firm said.
Michener further recalled of the crisis: ‘Didn’t really know how long we would be or how serious it was until we pulled out into the neighborhood and saw all the lights, helicopters, fire trucks, etc.’
In a statement earlier in the morning, CSX said the cause of the incident is ‘under investigation’, though a spokesperson later said in a separate statement that the derailment appeared to be ‘weather related.’
The region had been experiencing scattered thunderstorms and rain at the time of the crash.
Officials have since deemed the area safe, but it still remains unknown when families will be allowed back into their homes as hazmat teams continue to assess the scene
Gov. Josh Shapiro said he is monitoring the situation.