Fire at train derailment site causes evacuations, critical injuries


by WHAS11

Posted on October 31, 2012 at 1:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 13 at 2:56 PM

Train Derailment

View larger map

Video: Train derailment news conference

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- A flash fire broke out Thursday during recovery operations from a massive train derailment that happened on Monday. An evacuation has been ordered for anyone who lives within 1.2 miles of the fire. This includes the city of West Point Kentucky, Highway 44 is outside the evacuation area.

We are told five people have been injured. Two people have refused treatment and three are more seriously injured. One is in very critical condition, another is in critical condition and one in serious condition. The injured workers suffered second and third degree burns.

Video: Updates on workers injured in fire

There is a five mile "Shelter In Place Warning" radius that has been issued around the scene. A "code red alert" has been issued to people in a five mile radius of this fire. That means they've been asked to stay inside their homes or business, close windows and bring pets inside.

Map: Shelter in Place

The American Red Cross will open two shelters for those displaced from their homes. One is located at Muldraugh Elementary School and Stuart Middle School.

Many are staying with family, but more than 60 people took shelter at the former Muldraugh Elementary school.

The Red Cross provided food, blankets and cots for those in need, but not everyone left their homes. Stella Roeder's husband decided to stay despite the potential danger nearby.

"I think it's a protection thing. It's like the flood of '97. He wouldn't leave then," said Roeder.

West Point Mayor William Ash said they won't physically force people to leave, but they have documented those who didn't.

Some residents said they were told it could be several days before they are allowed back home. Police said residents would not be able to return home until at least 10 a.m. Thursday when the next news conference is expected.

A firefighter told WHAS11 there were some workers who were using cutting torches and "the arc flashed" causing a spark. Workers were repairing the tracks damage by the derailment as a scheduled plan to be able to get the damage cars out.

As of 2:30, the Ohio River has been closed near that area to traffic.

As of 3:20, the fire is contained and fire crews are letting it burn itself out.

Phone Interview: P&L Railroad Spokesperson

A doctor on the air with WHAS11 says butadiene can cause respiratory problems.  WHAS11 has learned area hospitals were put on standby early Wednesday as a precaution because train cars containing dangerous chemicals were going to be moved.

Phone Interview: Medical Director, St. Mary and Elizabeth Emergency Department

Schools have also been affected by the derailment. Nichols Elementary School is under "shelter in place" until further notice. According to Bullitt Schools, this is purely a precautionary measure based on the advice of Bullitt County Emergency Management. 

In the JCPS district, Watson Lane Elementary School dismissed early at 1:30pm Monday afternoon. Students will be transported to Valley High School for pick-up. Also, there will be no after school activities at Frost Middle School.

On Monday, 11 of 57 cars on that Paducah and Louisville Railroad train went off the tracks. One of them leaked butaine-a highly flammable chemical. 

Click here to see images of Monday's chemical spill.

The spill was contained Monday afternoon and hazmat crews handed operations over to private cleanup crews that evening. EMA officials could not trace an active leak by nighttime.

"We're getting zeros at all the air monitors deployed," Doug Hamilton, Jefferson County EMA said Monday. Dozens of homes were evacuated and residents within a two mile radius were told to stay indoors.