Exploding freight cars full of ethanol made for a dramatic early morning scene in Ohio’s capital. About 100 residents who live within a 1-mile radius of the explosion were evacuated by firefighters and police.
Columbus firefighters responded about 2:00 a.m. EDT to a train derailment, explosions, and fire after 11-13 cars derailed and apparently three ruptured. A very loud boom occurred as people approached the 98-car train immediately after it derailed. A second major boom also occurred. Some people reported intense heat, and two people were injured. The victims drove themselves to a hospital. The train was carrying ethanol (30,000 gallons per car) from Chicago, Illinois to Linwood, North Carolina when it crashed in an industrial area north of Downtown Columbus, and southeast of the campus of Ohio State University near Interstate 71. There is also a report that some cars contained styrene. Styrene, is an organic compound, similar to benzene, that has a sweet smell in low concentrations and a disagreeable, sharp odor in higher concentration. People described a strong chemical smell in the air with different odors in different areas.
Firefighters do not know what is onboard trains cars until they arrive on the scene and read the placards on the train cars — if they’re still intact. Firefighters learned the content was ethanol and styrene and decided to let the fire burn itself out. About 100 people in a 1-mile radius were evacuated. About 790,000 people live in Columbus, Ohio.
Styrene can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Styrene can have an intoxicating effect on the nervous system. There is limited evidence that styrene causes cancer in laboratory animals given styrene orally. More investigation of a cancer relationship is warranted because it is known to damage chromosomes.
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: “It was like the sun exploded. Big bang of first explosion of ethanol-filled tank cars after a derailment that occurred southeast of the Ohio State University campus.
NO AUDIO: Distant view of secondary explosion, just southeast of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
RAW VIDEO from Associated Press: A freight train derailment and explosion in Columbus, Ohio, has authorities evacuating a mile-wide area of the city as they try to contain the blaze and determine what’s burning.