Ohio town at risk of deadly chemical explosion following train derailment

A train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
A train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Gene J. Puskar/AP Photo

Authorities said Monday they will perform a controlled chemical release at the site of a train derailment near East Palestine, Ohio, as everyone in the area has been ordered to evacuate.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) ordered the release of vinyl chloride to occur Monday afternoon. Per The Associated PressDeWine addressed residents remaining in the area during a press conference and said he was "ordering you to leave. This is a matter of life and death." DeWine added that anyone in the area when the fumes are released would risk "grave danger of death."

The chemical release comes as crews continue to battle a chemical fire following the massive train derailment last Friday in East Palestine that saw at least 50 train cars fall off the tracks. While no injuries were reported, rail operator Norfolk Southern said at least 10 of the derailed cars contained combustible materials, including "vinyl chloride, combustible liquids, butyl acrylate, and benzene residue."

Following the derailment, USA Today reported that half of East Palestine's 4,671 residents were told to evacuate, but "local officials said more than 500 people [had] declined to leave their homes" despite the warnings from officials.

Columbiana County Sheriff Brian McLaughlin had previously said there was an enforced one-mile evacuation zone in East Palestine, adding in a statement that people who did not leave "may be arrested for...misconduct in an emergency."

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

East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway told AP that at least one person had been arrested for going around the barricades surrounding the crash. "I don't know why anybody would want to be up there; you're breathing toxic fumes if you're that close," Conaway said.

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