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Sat. 9:54 a.m.: Evacuation ordered after 50-car train derailment in East Palestine

EAST PALESTINE – Several train cars were still burning and a mandatory evacuation zone was put in place early this morning after a train derailed and caught fire around 9 p.m. Friday on the outskirts of East Palestine near the Pennsylvania border.

About 50 cars derailed from the Norfolk Southern train that was traveling from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Pa., East Palestine Fire Chief Keith Drabick said in an early morning press conference today. A cause of the derailment is not yet clear.

Mayor Trent R. Conway said no fatalities were reported. Conway set a mandatory evacuation zone for those east of Market Street to Highland and Jimtown Roads, and asked those outside the evacuation area to shelter in place. He and Drabick asked area residents to stay out of the area and keep the highways open for emergency response vehicles.

“If you have to come to East Palestine – don’t,” Drabick said. “Stay out of the area until we get this mitigated.”

Fire crews had been pulled off the scene early today as firefighters could not determine which cars were still actively burning. In their absence, unmanned ground monitoring was continued, Drabick said. Part of the reason for removing crews is that there had been several explosions, which Drabick expected may continue through the morning today.

Darbick said the train was carrying a variety of products, including some that were considered hazardous, but did not say this morning what those products were.

Reports indicate that around 50 fire departments from three states, including most departments in Columbiana and Mahoning Counties, responded overnight to the derailment.

The Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 was brought in to monitor air quality and assist with other environmental concerns. The Red Cross was also called to help families displaced by the massive ongoing fire.

Peggy Clark, director of the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency, said a shelter was established at the East Palestine Jr. Sr. High, 320 West Grant Street. As of early today, 43 residents were being sheltered at the school.

She said Columbiana will be working with Norfolk Southern to establish a family assistance center to address needs of the community. That center is expected to be open by Sunday.

For more on this story, read tomorrow’s Vindicator newspaper.

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