Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro issued an evacuation order for residents near the Pennsylvania-Ohio border due to the release of a toxic chemical after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.
The governor indicated residents who didn’t evacuate the area could risk serious injury or death if exposed to the thick smoke and flames.
“If you are in this red zone that is on the map and you refuse to evacuate, you are risking death,” Shapiro said during a press conference on Feb. 6. “This is very serious. If you are in the orange area, you risk permanent lung damage within a matter of hours or days.”
Norfolk Southern, the company whose train derailed, decided to do a “slow release” of the vinyl chloride in five of its rail cars due to the fact the colorless gas is unstable and could explode if not released.
While the controlled release of the chemical is also potentially harmful and deadly, thus far, Shapiro said there has been no indication that contaminants have been detected in Pennsylvania.
According to WESA radio, Pittsburgh, local emergency personnel and state police were going door-to-door, attempting to persuade the Pennsylvanians who had not evacuated to do so.
Authorities urged anyone within a one-mile radius to leave immediately. Many had, but local officials said more than 500 residents had refused to evacuate, according to the statement reported by WESA.
Federal investigators announced earlier on Sunday that the fiery derailment near the Pennsylvania state line on Friday night was caused by a mechanical problem with a rail car axle. East Palestine is approximately 7 miles from Darlington in Beaver County and approximately 50 miles from Pittsburgh.
The three-member train crew received an alert about the mechanical defect “shortly before the derailment,” but the board was still investigating which rail car was affected, according to WESA.
The train, which was carrying a variety of products from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, derailed in East Palestine, according to rail operator Norfolk Southern. There were no reported injuries among the crew, residents, or first responders.
Investigators were able to identify the exact point of derailment but did not reveal the location as of Sunday. Officials told reporters that the information would be included in a preliminary investigation report, which is expected within the next month or so.