'Catastrophic' Explosion Possible After 150-Car Train Carrying Chemicals Derails in Ohio

The train, en route from Illinois to Pennsylvania, derailed on Friday and set off a massive fire that authorities are still contending with as of Monday morning

Officials are ordering the evacuation of thousands of people in northeastern Ohio due to the potential of a major explosion from a train that derailed in the area three days earlier.

Late Sunday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement on Twitter regarding the fluid situation, which involves toxic chemicals and "deadly" shrapnel that could endanger residents who live within one mile of the accident.

"Within the last two hours, 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," DeWine, 76, said in the statement.

The governor also activated the Ohio National Guard to deploy to the scene to assist local authorities, which include the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Emergency Management Agency and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

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Columbiana County Sheriff Brian McLaughlin said in a statement that authorities will enforce the one-mile evacuation zone in East Palestine, and that residents may be arrested if they do not comply.

"There is a high probability of a toxic gas release and or explosion," he said. "Please, for your own safety, remove your families from danger."

Wreckage from the derailment was still on fire Sunday, leaching a burning chemical identified as vinyl chloride from the train's cars.

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"This catastrophic failure, if it occurs, it will produce hydrogen chloride and phosgene gas into the atmosphere," Fire Chief Keith Drabick said, according to CNN. He added that the one-mile radius around the derailment may be extended.

National Transportation and Safety Board officials on the scene said at a news conference Sunday that they had "not confirmed vinyl chloride has been released other than from the pressure release devices."

The 150-car Norfolk Southern train was shipping cargo from Illinois to Pennsylvania when it derailed on Friday, according to NBC News.

Fire departments from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania responded over the weekend, as well as federal investigators, who are working to determine the cause of the derailment.

As of Monday morning, authorities say the water supply and the air quality in the area remains safe, per NBC News.

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