DERAILED: Disaster in East Palestine

Ohio governor orders 'urgent evacuation' of town following derailment

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine warned of potential for a "catastrophic explosion" and advised residents of East Palestine, Ohio to evacuate the area.

Portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed.
Portions of a Norfolk and Southern freight train that derailed.
Gene J. Puskar / AP

Residents of East Palestine, Ohio, were told to urgently evacuate their town Sunday night, two days after a train derailed in the area of about 4,700 residents.

The derailment occurred late Friday and did not cause any injuries. Although two days had passed, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said late Sunday that officials measured a "drastic temperature change" in a rail car. He warned of a "catastrophic explosion" that could send shrapnel a mile away from the crash.

Ohio National Guard members in hazmat suits prepare to assess hazards from a train derailment.

Air near Ohio train derailment deemed safe for residents to return

Officials said East Palestine residents can return home after being evacuated due to burning toxic gases from portions of the 50-car derailment.


"We've had a drastic change in the chemical inside the tank cars that we've been concerned about and watching all day, the vinyl chloride. We are at a risk now of a catastrophic failure of that container," East Palestine Fire Department Chief Keith Drabick said at a news conference. "Measures are being taken to try and control that and prevent that from happening." 

He said most people within one mile had already evacuated, but he estimated that about 500 residents remained at the time of his warning. 

He said shelters were open for residents needing somewhere to go. 

A train fire is seen from a farm in East Palestine, Ohio.

50-car train derailment causes big fire, evacuations in Ohio

Freezing temperatures in the single digits complicated firefighter response as trucks pumping water froze.


"Although teams are working to prevent an explosion from happening, residents living within a mile of the site are advised to immediately leave the area," DeWine's office said in a statement.

Officials are still trying to determine what caused the derailment.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, vinyl chloride is highly flammable and is mostly used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and vinyl products. Short-term exposure to the chemical can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headaches. Long-term exposure can result in liver damage and cancer concerns, the EPA said.