Train Derailment Causes Massive Fire, Leading to School and Neighborhood Evacuations
Witness told reporters they heard the sound of railcars breaking and then the sound of metal crunching before flames engulfed the area
Massive flames engulfed the area of Dupo, Illinois on Tuesday afternoon after a Union Pacific train was derailed.
The frightening incident occurred at around 12:45 p.m. and caused a tank car to catch fire, Kristen M. South, a representative for Union Pacific tells PEOPLE. As a result, at least 14 other train cars crashed into each other.
“At the time of the derailment, a train was being built for departure. As a result of the derailment, a tank car caught fire. Initial information indicates the tank car contained a flammable liquid called methyl isobutyl ketone, which is typically used as a solvent,” South explains.
At this time, the exact cause of the derailment remains under investigation.
Videos from the scene, obtained by KMOV, show colossal clouds of thick dark smoke and devastating flames shooting up from the train tracks. The sighting could be seen from miles away.
A number of nearby homes and schools were forced to evacuate the area and power was cut off to the East Carondelet community due to high tension lines above the fire, NBC News reported.
Witnesses have since spoken out about the fire, explaining to KMOV that they heard sounds of railcars breaking and then the sound of metal “crunching” before the fire started.
“I was just standing out here working and seen a giant fireball out of the corner of my eye and I looked over and saw smoke billowing and then it started spreading down the tracks about five minutes after that,” bystander Patrick Wilson, who works near the scene, told KMOV.
By 3:15 p.m. local time, the fire was extinguished, South explains to PEOPLE. Within the hour, following an air quality rest, evacuations were lifted.
“Out of an abundance of caution, CTEH, our environmental contractor, will continue to monitor air quality downwind and southwind at least 5 miles from the yard until further notice,” South says.
The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency in Illinois revealed on Facebook that officials will remain on the scene “for an extended period resolving this incident.”
No injuries or fatalities have been reported.