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Chemical train derailment continues to affect Ohio

The images are spectacular. Thousands of Americans residing near the site of the derailment of a train carrying chemicals in the northern United States were still not allowed to return home on Tuesday, four days after the event.

The railway authorities have indeed proceeded on Monday to “controlled” releases of vinyl chloride, a carcinogenic and highly flammable chemical used in the manufacture of plastic, from the cars still on fire.

As part of this operation, an explosion took place around 4:30 p.m. local time in the East Palestine area, in the state of Ohio near the border with Pennsylvania where the accident took place, said Tuesday. AFP Sandy Mackey, spokesman for the local disaster management agency. The fumes released could potentially be “lethal” if “inhaled”, the railway company Norfolk Southern had indicated the day before in a press release.

2,000 inhabitants concerned

Some 2,000 residents, or about half of the population of East Palestine, within a radius of between 1.5 and 3.2 km from the site of the accident, are still under evacuation orders since this weekend.

Authorities have also urged people residing outside the area to stay at home as much as possible. “We are doing air quality tests and waiting for the fumes to clear so people can go home,” said Sandy Mackey. Schools near where the derailment took place have been closed “as a precaution”.

Vinyl chloride is a colorless gas used in a variety of plastic products and packaging materials. When it burns, it can create phosgene, a highly toxic substance used in particular as a chemical weapon during the First World War. The cause of the 150-car train derailment is still under investigation.

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