Train Hauling Hazmat Derails, Residents Evacuated

Posted on 5/17/2021 by Roseanne Bottone

Image credit: Nathan Minten (via Reuters)

On Sunday afternoon, May 16, 2021, forty-seven Union Pacific railcars derailed and several exploded into flames. It appears the freight train derailment was caused by a collapsed bridge but remains under investigation. There were no reported injuries to the crew.

The train’s diesel fuel tankers caught fire during the derailment, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the sky. Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls told the local KIWA radio station that the train was hauling fertilizer and ammonium nitrate.

An updated story on Monday morning reports that the railcars impacted were carrying hydrochloric acid, potassium hydroxide, and asphalt. 

The accident happened near Sibley, Iowa, a town with a population of approximately 3,000 people that is located about 200 miles northwest of the state’s capital city of Des Moines.

(Drone footage shows taken from directly above the crash site the aftermath of the derailment.)

As a precautionary measure, approximately eighty Sibley residents living within a five-mile radius of the scene were evacuated. For those outside this radius who sheltered in place, emergency responders advised them to open windows on both sides of their home and position themselves in the middle of their homes. The Sheriff’s office wrote, "This is a safety measure in case a rail car explodes."

Several area fire departments are on the scene as well as Sioux City Hazmat teams.

As of 9:00 AM on Monday, May 17, some residents can return home as parts of Sibley have re-opened, according to the local Sheriff’s Office.

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Tags: ammonium nitrate, hazardous materials, hazmat rail shipping, hazmat shipping

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