Residents Can Return Home After Kentucky Derailment

Train company says chemical fire has been extinguished
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 23, 2023 11:50 AM CST
Updated Nov 23, 2023 4:09 PM CST
Kentucky Town Evacuated After Train Derailment
This image taken from video and provided by WTVQ shows people sitting at a table at Rockcastle Middle School being used as an evacuation center in Mt Vernon, Ky., Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.   (WTVQ via AP)
UPDATE Nov 23, 2023 4:09 PM CST

A chemical fire at a Kentucky train derailment that caused evacuations has been extinguished and people can return to their homes, rail operator CSX said Thursday. CSX spokesperson Bryan Tucker said Thursday afternoon that authorities and CSX officials reviewed air monitoring data and decided it was safe to let displaced Livingston residents return home, the AP reports. Two of the 16 cars that derailed carried molten sulfur, which caught fire after the cars were breached, CSX said in a statement. It's believed that the fire released the potentially harmful gas sulfur dioxide. Carnegie Mellon University chemistry professor Neil Donahue says the gas is "nasty, caustic, and acidic stuff that hurts," but the threat is expected to diminish quickly now that the fire has been put out.

Nov 23, 2023 11:50 AM CST

A train derailed and spilled a chemical in a remote part of eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, prompting officials to encourage residents of a small town to evacuate amid concerns about air quality. The CSX train derailed around 2:30pm Wednesday near Livingston, a remote town with about 200 people in Rockcastle County, the AP reports. Two of the 16 cars that derailed carried molten sulfur, which caught fire after the cars were breached, CSX said in a statement. A shelter was opened at a local middle school. Crews were still working to extinguish the fire Thursday morning, the company said.

It's believed that the fire is releasing sulfur dioxide, but the amount won't be confirmed until measurements are taken from air monitoring equipment that was being deployed Wednesday night, a CSX spokesperson said. Gov. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency in the county, assuring crews all the help from the state they need. He asked the public to keep in mind the emergency workers and people forced to spend Thanksgiving away from home. "Please think about them and pray for a resolution that gets them back in their homes. Thank you to all the first responders spending this day protecting our people," the governor said in a statement Thursday.

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CSX promised to pay the costs of anyone asked to evacuate, including a Thanksgiving dinner. Cindy Bradley tells WTVQ that she had just finished cooking for Thanksgiving at her Livingston home when an official knocking loudly urged her to leave her as soon as possible. "It was just really scary," she says. "Because we don't know how long this is. This could be tonight. It could be three weeks. Who knows? Our homes are empty. People are scared."

(More derailment stories.)

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