Louisianna: Train Derailment

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NEW IBERIA, La. (Reuters) - Ten cars of a cargo train derailed in southwestern Louisiana on Wednesday night, causing highly flammable liquid to leak out of one car and forcing hundreds of residents from their homes, authorities said.

No one was injured in the accident.

Three of the 10 derailed Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe Railroad cars overturned in the accident in the town of New Iberia, but only one tanker, which contained butylacrylate, was leaking, said a Louisiana State Police spokeswoman in nearby Lafayette.

State and local police ordered the evacuation of homes within a half-mile area north of the accident site because of the danger of explosion.

``We encouraged people on the periphery to evacuate voluntarily,'' New Iberia Mayor Ruth Fontenot told Reuters.

"We have more than 100 evacuees at the Community Center,'' she said. ``To have that many here means that hundreds more had to leave but went to family's and friend's houses.''

Hazardous materials specialists were evaluating the accident site Wednesday night to determine if the leak can be plugged, Fontenot said.

The state police spokeswoman said authorities expect several days will be needed to clear the derailment site before people are allowed to return to their homes.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), May 04, 2000



Thursday May 4 12:58 PM ET

Derailed Tank Car Clean-Up Begins in Louisiana

NEW IBERIA, La. (Reuters) - Clean-up around a leaking tank car began on Thursday morning, as evacuation orders remained in place for hundreds of people affected by a Wednesday night train derailment, emergency officials said.

Ten cars of a Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe Railroad train derailed about 7 p.m. Wednesday in downtown New Iberia, a southwest Louisiana town of 34,000 residents.

State police said three of the cars overturned, but only one -- containing xylene, a highly flammable chemical -- was leaking. Initial reports incorrectly identified the leaking chemical as butylacrylate, also flammable, authorities said.

No one was injured in the incident.

Residents within a half-mile radius of the derailment were ordered to evacuate because the leaking solvent posed a danger of explosion, Mayor Ruth Fontenot said on Wednesday night.

``We know hundreds had to leave, but, since most went to family's and friend's houses, we don't know how many,'' she said.

``They're going to begin offloading the leaking car today, along with another car containing a highly flammable liquid that derailed but did not overturn,'' Jim Anderson, Iberia Parish emergency coordinator, said on Thursday morning.

``It's going to be at least late Friday before people can go home,'' he said.

The courthouse, near the derailment, and all New Iberia schools were closed on Thursday.

Anderson said hazardous materials specialists from Burlington were handling the cleanup. Fontenot said there were no indications that the leaking chemical had seeped into the town's drainage system.

-- Rachel Gibson (
rgibson@hotmail.com), May 04, 2000.

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