The National Transportation and Safety Board will investigate the derailment of a freight train carrying ethanol in Columbus, Ohio, where flames spewed into the sky during the early-morning hours of Wednesday.
The federal agency, which is charged with investigating crashes, announced that it had sent a team to the site where about 30 houses were evacuated and residents within a one-mile radius were advised to stay indoors.
According to Norfolk Southern, its train with two locomotives and 98 freight cars was traveling south when it derailed at about 2:05 a.m. in a mainly industrial section of the city. Officials were still assessing how many cars went off the track, but the early estimate was from 11 to 13, railroad officials said in an email sent to reporters.
As of mid-morning, two tank cars carrying ethanol remained burning, the company said. Fire officials told reporters at the scene that they had decided to let the fire burn itself out rather than try to extinguish it.
The Fire Department recommended an evacuation for those within two blocks of the crash site. A shelter was opened.
Railroad personnel have moved the locomotives and three freight cars from the scene.
There were no injuries to Norfolk Southern crews, but there were reports that two others received minor injuries.
Joel Priester told the Associated Press that he watched the blast from his home two blocks away.
“I saw flames, then I heard a loud sound, like a boom, and saw the flames shooting higher,” he said. “It looked like the sun exploded.”
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