Updated: 5:30 p.m. EST
By Justin Franz
EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Norfolk Southern was conducting a “controlled release” on Monday afternoon of at least one tank car involved in last Friday’s wreck near East Palestine, Ohio. The fiery release resulted in a thick black smoke plume that looked like something from a disaster movie.
The release came hours after the governor of Ohio expanded an evacuation order near the site. On Monday, officials told residents in the area that they were in “grave danger of death” if they did not leave immediately. Police said they would arrest people if they didn’t leave the area.
A screenshot of news footage of the “controlled release” at East Palestine, Ohio, on Monday afternoon.
On Friday night, an eastbound NS manifest freight with 150 cars derailed near East Palestine, Ohio. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, at least 50 cars derailed and 10 of them were loaded with hazardous materials. Five of the derailed cars contained vinyl chloride, a dangerous gas used to make plastic products. On late Sunday, due to changing conditions, officials grew concerned that one of the cars might explode.
“Within the last two hours, a drastic temperature change has taken place in a rail car, and there is now the potential of a catastrophic tanker failure which could cause an explosion with the potential of deadly shrapnel traveling up to a mile,” Gov. Mike DeWine announced late Sunday.
The NTSB has taken over control of the investigation, although it was likely that little progress could be made on that front until the fire was completely out. Officials believe the wreck might have been caused by a mechanical issue with the train itself.
Meanwhile, NS began to reroute traffic around the wreck site and on Sunday sent at least one double stack train through New York via the Southern Tier and the New York, Susquehanna & Western. As a result of the wreck, Amtrak canceled the Capitol Limited.