MD: Baltimore train fire continues for second daygreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Headline: Derailed chemical train burns in downtown Baltimore
Source: Associated Press 19 July 2001
A fire that broke out in a downtown tunnel when a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed burned for a second day Thursday as firefighters braved searing flames and billowing smoke.
Two firefighters were taken to hospitals because of chest pains.
At one point Wednesday, all major highways into town were blocked, a Baltimore Orioles game at nearby Camden Yards was postponed and the Inner Harbor was closed to boat traffic. The blaze burned so hot that firefighters couldn't reach the flames for eight hours.
To add to the chaos, a water-main break caused by the 3:10 p.m. derailment caused power outages to hundreds of customers and the collapse of a section of a major downtown thoroughfare, Lombard Street. Officials said the break also may have had a good effect by flooding the tunnel and reducing the fire.
Though the highways had reopened Thursday, motorists searched for ways to get around downtown, where several streets remained closed.
"We're still trying to deal with probably one of the most difficult fire situations we've ever had," Mayor Martin O'Malley told NBC's "Today" show. "This is a hazardous chemical fire inside a tunnel that runs underneath our city. ... It's slow going."
Four cars were pulled from deep inside the 1 1/2-mile-long tunnel by a locomotive early Thursday. Fire Department spokesman Hector Torres said the blaze was not burning near the chemical tankers, and firefighters were unsure what was on fire.
"I think we're probably going to go through the morning with this," he said.
Eight tankers in the 60-car CXS Transportation Inc. freight train were carrying hazardous materials, including hydrochloric acid, a corrosive chemical that can cause lung damage if inhaled, officials said.
A car carrying hydrochloric acid was leaking, but the leaking chemical was not combustible and was not a health concern, CSX spokesman Robert Gould said.
Once enough cars were removed from the tunnel, the freight line will bring in an empty tank car and transfer chemicals from the train, he said.
O'Malley said analyses of the smoke pouring from the tunnel showed no dangerous levels of the chemicals. But health officials still warned residents to stay inside with their windows closed and their ventilation systems off.
"So far, all the air quality has been OK," O'Malley said. "There's some really hazardous stuff in there."
Gould said the train was inside the tunnel that runs from Camden Yards through downtown when a sensor in one of three locomotives detected an unidentified problem.
The two-person crew stopped the train and started to walk back to check the cars. When they saw smoke, they uncoupled the locomotives and rode out of the tunnel to safety.
State highway officials closed all major roadways into the city in the hours at the request of fire and police officials. About 200 highway workers were stationed at the city line to turn back motorists.
"This isn't a panic," said Kurt Kocher of the city's Department of Public Works. Residents and tourists could leave the city, he said. No homes or businesses were ordered evacuated.
It took about eight hours before firefighters were able to reach the burning train cars, Torres said.
Firefighters used thermal imaging equipment to pinpoint the train's location within the tunnel. But one of the first firefighters to enter said his colleagues were forced back by the heat.
The Baltimore Orioles had been scheduled to play the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night. The game was rescheduled to Thursday afternoon, but had to be postponed again as the fire continued to burn.
The train was traveling from Hamlet, N.C., to Oak Island, N.J.
-- Andre Weltman (email@example.com), July 19, 2001
List of chemicals on derailed train BALTIMORE Md. (AP) - A list of chemicals included in the cargo manifest of the train involved in Wednesday's derailment:
- Hydrochloric acid, a metal cleaner. Not combustible, but highly corrosive. If inhaled, can cause a burning sensation, cough, labored breathing, shortness of breath, and sore throat. Upon contact with skin or eyes, can cause severe burns.
- Glacial acetic acid, a glass solvent. Flammable. If inhaled, can cause sore throat, cough, burning sensation, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, labored breathing. Upon contact with skin or eyes, can cause pain, redness, and severe burns.
- Fluorosilicic or hydrofluoric acid, used to flouridate water. Not combustible, but corrosive. If inhaled, can cause a burning sensation, cough and shortness of breath. Upon contact with skin or eyes, can cause pain, redness, blisters and severe burns.
- Propylene glycol, a deicing fluid. Combustible. Can cause redness and pain in eyes.
- Tripropylene, a lubricant similar to paint thinner.
- Ethyl hexyl phthalate, used to make flexible products like PVC piping. Combustible. If inhaled, can cause cough or sore throat.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Dr. Bruce Anderson, director of Maryland Poison Center at the University of Maryland.
On the Net: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ipcs/nicstart.html.
-- Doris (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 19, 2001.
It's amazing the chemicals that are carried in *large* volumes through populated areas. Some of these industrial raw materials in another context would be called "chemcial weapons." I recall watching multiple tanker cars of phosgene rolling along the train tracks between CDC headquarters and Emory University last time I was down in Atlanta. And I've seen huge train cars of cyanide, too.
-- Andre Weltman (email@example.com), July 19, 2001.