Train fire evacuations to continue through Thurs. morning - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Train fire evacuations to continue through Thurs. morning

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Authorities planned to keep an evacuation and shelter-in-place order in effect through Thursday morning as crews continued their efforts to put out a fire in a derailed train tank car near West Point, Ky.

That means hundreds of people, including most residents of West Point, had to spend the night away from their homes.

Workers are still putting water around the railcar, as the fire continues to burn.  Air quality readings are not showing any danger.  Soil and water samples are being taken.  Authorities are certain that the soil is contaminated, but the extent is not known.

A dam is being built between the site and the Salt River to contain the runoff.

Of the three workers who went to the hospital, one is in critical condition, and the other two are in fair condition.

A reconnaissance team was heading onto the site in protective gear -- 20 firefighters and six railroad specialists.

The five contractors were injured when a blow torch sparked a fire during the cleanup of the toxic train derailment.  Officials say three of the workers had burns over 90 percent of their bodies. 

Two of the injured workers are employees of the R.J. Corman Railroad Group.  The company, out of Nicholasville, Ky., provides services that include derailment cleanup.

Emergency Management Director Doug Hamilton said the worker with the severe burns had been injured, "as a result, perhaps, of some residual chemicals that he ignited."  He said Louisville, Bullitt County, and Shelby County EMS were on the scene treating the workers.  Hamilton said the fire was continuing to spread.

When asked why workers were using a blow torch, Hamilton replied he didn't have enough information yet to say.

A "shelter in place" warning has been issued for a five-mile radius around the site. Residents are told to stay in their homes with the doors and windows secured and ventilation turned off, but officials say there's no danger from the site.

Shelters were set up at the Colvin Community Center in Radcliff, Ky., and at the former Muldraugh Elementary School in Radcliff, Ky. The American Red Cross opened another shelter at Stuart Middle School on Valley Station Road in Louisville.

Video from the scene showed flames rising from the end of one of the rail cars, and unmanned fire hoses sending several streams of water arcing toward the fire. 

As for the work to clear the derailment scene, Buechel Fire Dept. Assistant Chief Richard Hamilton told reporters, "All stabilization work at this point has ceased as we deal with the emergency at hand."  After the fire burns out, the process of offloading chemicals before moving the train cars will continue.

Kentucky 44 is closed in the vicinity of Knob Creek Road for drivers who would head west from Shepherdsville in Bullitt County.  Dixie Highway is now closed in vicinity of Kosmosdale. This is farther north than before.

A two-mile stretch of the Ohio River has been closed.

One evacuee, Gary Brewer, who lives near the derailment site, says he heard the explosion and authorities soon arrived at his home to tell him of the mandatory evacuation:  "This is actually the second time we've been evacuated since this happened," he told WDRB News.  But he adds, "It's been handled pretty well.  It is scary, of course, and this is something that I've never dealt with."  He says he and his family are going to stay in a hotel.

Thirteen cars flew off the P&L track Monday.  Two cars carrying hydrogen fluoride are still tipped over. Officials had to stabilize and level the cars. The fear was that there could be some unseen damage to the cars, which are on their sides in a ravine.

Hydrogen Fluoride is a dangerous chemical that is an inhalation and burn hazard. "According to experts, 10 cc's of direct contact with HF can cause death. "Not something to be playing with," said Doug Hamilton, Director of MetroSafe on a phone conference.

Copyright 2012 WDRB News.  All Rights Reserved.

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