Developing
5:05 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

Shelter-in-Place, Evacuation Ordered at Derailment Site After Fire

Update 7:30 p.m.: Authorities have still not suppressed the fire, said Jody Duncan, a MetroSafe spokeswoman. Once the fire is suppressed, authorities will investigate the scene to decide whether to lift the shelter-in-place and evacuation orders.

Meanwhile, Duncan provided updated information on the condition of the three workers hospitalized in the fire. One is in "extremely" critical condition, one is "seriously" critical and the other is listed as critical, Duncan said.

The workers were wearing respirators when the fire began, which may have helped keep their injuries from being even worse, she noted.

Update 6:30 p.m.: P&L Railway has released a statement saying the company will "cooperate fully with an investigation" into the derailment and fire. Further, the company is opening an outreach center for displaced residents who are "seeking reimbursement for lodging, food, lost work days and travel expenses."

The full statement from P&L:

Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured workers and their families. Paducah & Louisville is prepared to support them in any way possible.

We also are prepared to support those who live in the area and have been directly impacted by helping to secure lodging and attending to other immediate needs. To that end, Paducah & Louisville Railway will open at 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, an outreach center at VFW Post 1181, 6518 Blevins Gap Road (off Dixie Highway) for displaced residents seeking reimbursement for lodging, food, lost work days and travel expenses. Photo identification and receipts are necessary. For more information, call 731-225-6808. The outreach center will remain open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until further notice. Paducah & Louisville continues to work with first responders and to cooperate fully with an investigation into both Monday’s derailment and today’s flash fire. We deeply appreciate the work of all agencies. Our actions since the derailment include cleanup of materials that were lost in the derailment, and air monitoring to ensure safe air quality. The flash fire today occurred during recovery operations that included lifting and removing the derailed cars. We will re-assess the recovery efforts today and work with first responders to determine the next steps. More information will be provided as available.

4:50 p.m.: A shelter for people displaced by the evacuation order has been established at Stuart Middle School, 4601 Valley Station Road, MetroSafe said. A temporary shelter for displaced animals has been set up at Metro Animal Services' Manslick Road location.

Another shelter is being set up at Muldraugh Elementary School, 202 Wendell Street, Muldraugh, Ky., according to the Louisville Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Update 3:20 p.m.: Authorities are now evacuating people within 1.2 miles of the derailment site, MetroSafe said.

The evacuation and shelter-in-place order are precautionary, said Jody Duncan, MetroSafe spokeswoman. 

Also, one of the injured workers is in critical condition,  Duncan said. Of the two other injured workers, one is in fair condition and one is in stable condition.

Update 2:40 p.m.: A shelter-in-place has been issued for a five-mile radius of the derailment site -- near the intersection of Dixie Highway and Katherine Station Road in southwestern Jefferson County, MetroSafe said.

People are advised to close all windows and doors, bring pets inside and turn off heating and air conditioning systems.

Three contract workers were injured and transported  -- likely to University Hospital -- in a fire at the site Wednesday, said Jody Duncan, a MetroSafe spokeswoman. Two others who were near the fire declined to go to a hospital, she said.

The workers were using equipment which appears to have ignited residual butadiene at the site, Duncan said. Thousands of gallons of the explosive chemical spilled after the derailment.

Earlier: At least two contract workers will be transported to a hospital Wednesday after a fire near the wreckage site of the train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County, said a spokeswoman for Louisville-Jefferson County EMA/MetroSafe.

The fire did not happen in the wrecked cars that contain dangerous materials, said Jody Duncan, the MetroSafe spokeswoman. It's unclear whether the workers were injured, and unknown how serious any injuries may be.

It's also unclear if the incident will affect plans to stabilize two cars containing hydrogen fluoride.

Earlier: A new shelter-in-place warning and Level-3 Hazmat situation will likely be ordered Wednesday near the site of a train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County as a precaution, because contractor are planning to stabilize two cars containing the dangerous chemical hydrogen fluoride.

The shelter-in-place warning may cover as many as five miles, said Doug Hamilton, the executive director of Louisville-Jefferson County EMA/MetroSafe.

Two cars in the wreckage from the Monday morning derailment contain hydrogen fluoride, Hamilton said. Authorities believe that the hydrogen fluoride did not leak.

But contractors aren't certain how the wrecked cars will hold up when they're stabilized -- leading to the precautionary emergency measures, Hamilton said.

"We do not know where the damage may be," he said of the cars.

Of hydrogen fluoride, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said:

Breathing hydrogen fluoride can burn lung tissue and cause swelling and fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may cause severe burns that develop after several hours and form skin ulcers.

The evacuation of homes near the derailment is still in place. 

The workers will move the two cars containing hydrogen fluoride from a ravine and place them upright, Hamilton said. Off-loading the hydrogen chemical should not pose the same risks as moving the cars. About 75 people are at the derailment site working on the clean-up; R.J. Corman Railroad Group is the contractor.

An emergency response bus from Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services will also be at the site for what Hamilton called "an abundance of caution."

Louisville area hospitals will be notified that the work is being done, so they can prepare for potential patients suffering hydrogen fluoride exposure, Hamilton said.