October 15, 2005--Posted at 5:30 p.m. CST
TEXARKANA-- Hundreds of homes were evacuated in
Texarkana today after seven empty train cars and a tanker
containing propylene derailed in a switchyard, exploding in a ball
of fire and leaving a plume of smoke over the south end of the
Police spokesman Chris Rankin says one person was killed when a
nearby home was destroyed. At least seven people went to hospital
emergency rooms with complaints of respiratory problems, and at
least two homes and several vehicles were destroyed in the
quarter-mile area surrounding the accident scene.
The accident happened around 5 this morning. By noon, the
propylene tank continued to burn but the fire was under control and
the smoke had thinned out. Union Pacific said the fire should be
burned out by early tomorrow morning. Police canceled the
evacuation about 3 this afternoon and people were returning home.
Initially, police thought the chemical involved was vinyl
acetate, which releases poisonous fumes. Officers went door to
door, urging thousands of people in a 2-by-5 mile area to move to
the north side of town.
Rankin said the smoke was so thick it blocked out daylight.Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said no one among therailroad crews was injured.Davis said a Union Pacific train coming from Chicago hit theback of another freight train in the rail yard, causing the eight
cars to derail. He said his initial report that ``a small L-P-G
tank'' was involved was erroneous. Union Pacific was investigating
the cause of the accident.
The train was headed for Laredo, Texas, when it hit the back of
the other Union Pacific train, which was coming from Pine Bluff and
headed for Harlingen, Texas.