Two towns have been evacuated after a freight train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed and burst into flames in southern West Virginia on February 16.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issues state of emergency in Kanawha, Fayette counties after train derailment.
At least 14 cars were affected and one plunged into the Kanawha River, state officials said.
Local websites published images of large flames and a thick plume of black smoke near a partly frozen river.
There are also reports that a train car crashed into a house, but there were no initial reports of fatalities.
Rail company CSX said in a statement that one person was being treated for potential inhalation, but no other injuries were reported.
Residents of Adena Village and Boomer have been urged to evacuate after the accident happened at 13:30.
State emergency response and environmental officials headed to the scene – a rural, coal mining area near Montgomery.
West Virginia American Water shut down a water treatment plant, located three miles away an hour after the derailment, spokeswoman Laura Jordan said. The plant serves about 2,000 customers.
The state was under a winter storm warning and getting heavy snowfall at times, with as much as five inches in some places. It is unclear whether the snow contributed to the crash.
The train consisted of two locomotives and 109 rail cars and was travelling from North Dakota to Yorktown, Virginia.
[youtube 8PdXwxYBE6E 650]
A chemical spill into the Elk River in West Virginia has led to a tap water ban for up to 300,000 people, shut down bars and restaurants and led to a run on bottled water in some stores as people looked to stock up.
The federal government joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin in declaring a disaster as the West Virginia National Guard arranged to dispense bottled drinking water to emergency services agencies in the counties hit by the chemical spill into the Elk River.
The advisory was expanded at night to nine counties and includes West Virginia American Water customers in Boone, Cabell, Clay, Jackson, Kanawha, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam and Roane counties.
It followed a notice from the West Virginia American Water Company that its water supply had become contaminated, sending a strange licorice-like smell wafting through the surrounding streets.
According to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, the symptoms include: severe burning in throat, severe eye irritation, non-stop vomiting, trouble breathing or severe skin irritation such as skin blistering.
Once word got out about the governor’s declaration, customers stripped store shelves in many areas of items such as bottled water, paper cups and bowls. As many as 50 customers had flooded a convenience store near the state Capitol in Charleston to purchase water.
Residents were told not to drink the tap water, bathe in it or cook with the water and only use it for flushing and fire emergencies. Boiling it will not remove the chemicals.
“Right now, our priorities are our hospitals, nursing homes, and schools,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said in a statement.
Elk River chemical spill leaves 300,000 people without water in West Virginia
“I’ve been working with our National Guard and Office of Emergency Services in an effort to provide water and supplies through the county emergency services offices as quickly as possible.”
The odor from the spill – which has been likened to that of licorice or cough syrup – was especially pungent at the Charleston Marriott hotel just a stone’s throw from the Elk River, which runs into the Kanawha River in downtown Charleston. The Marriott shut off all water to rooms – but soon turned it back on so hotel guests could flush toilets. The hotel distributed 16.9-ounce bottles of spring water to each guest.
Schools will be closed Friday in some of the affected counties.
West Virginia American Water did not provide a timeline for the clean-up process, but the company’s external affairs manager Laura Jordan told Reuters that the spill originated with Freedom Industries, a Charleston company.
It occurred right above the intake of the Kanawha Valley water treatment plant in Charleston – the largest in West Virginia – and affects 100,000 homes and businesses, or 250,000 to 300,000 people, she said.
The leaked product is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, which is used in the froth flotation process of coal washing and preparation.
Earlier, another West Virginia American Water spokesperson Jennifer Sayre urged residents not to panic and rush out to grocery stores to purchase bottled water, as local officials were working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to open water distribution centers.
[youtube 8qQ8bNaCpzo 650]