LIGONIER, Ind. – Cleanup crews working on the burning train cars that derailed Tuesday say they’ve suffered a setback. Shifting winds have led to additional road closures and more evacuations.
A quarter mile stretch along County Road 1100 North has been buzzing with activity after 22 rail cars derailed near Ligonier Tuesday morning.
One of the trains carried molten sulfur.
WSBT News watched from the sky as the fire burned all day Tuesday – then all night. While the fire was finally put out by Wednesday night, firefighters and crews battled still-burning hot spots throughout the day.
"The lay of the land where the accident happened has some water nearby as well as some marshy area, and that's making things difficult," said Rob Elstro, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Emergency Management
With so much going, it was difficult to keep up with the estimated 100 crews out in the accident area and the derailment site.
While air and water samples have been taken, the environmental impact is still not yet known.
"Once we get the fire out, get everything away from there, then we can go in and do an environmental assessment and a full fish and wildlife assessment as well," said Elstro Wednesday before he announced that the fire had been put out.
Some people in the area did report burning eyes and respritory concerns. They were told to seek medical attention.
Investigators still don't know what caused the derailment.
On Wednesday night Elstro issued the following news release:
Incident Response Status Update
• Fire: Crews removed the box car from the derailment area and extinguished the fire. All fires are now out.
• Evacuations: The evacuations will remain in place throughout the night.
• Road Closures: Road closures will remain in place throughout the night.
• Indoor Air Sampling: Evacuees have been offered the opportunity to have the air inside their homes tested for sulfur compounds. Testing can begin after the evacuation has been lifted.
• Exposure: Individuals have complained about burning eyes and respiratory concerns. Those individuals are working with Norfolk Southern, who has advised them to seek medical attention.
• Environmental Testing: Norfolk Southern environmental contractors continue to sample the air and water quality.
• Norfolk Southern crews and contractors will continue to clean up and repair the rail line.
• The evacuations and local roads closures will be lifted based on air monitoring results and weather forecasts.
• Environmental contractors will continue to test the air and water.
• IDEM and DNR will evaluate the impact on the environment, fish and wildlife.
• IDEM will work with Norfolk Southern to ensure that any impacted soils will be adequately remediated.
At approximately 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 27, a Norfolk Southern train derailed northwest of Ligonier. No one was injured. Among other substances, the train carried molten sulfur and toluene. A fire among the derailed cars generated a yellowish smoke and six homes downwind of the area were evacuated as a precaution. White foam was spotted in the Elkhart River and booms were placed downstream as a precaution.
Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide were present in the smoke. The fire and smoke prevented the environmental contractors and IDEM from conducting a full evaluation of the impact to the environment. DNR did not observe an impact to fish or wildlife from the incident.
Norfolk Southern, Noble County EMA, Elkhart County EMA, Incident Management Team District 3, Ligonier Fire Department, Kendallville Fire Department, Millersburg-Clinton Fire Department, Cromwell Fire Department, Albion Fire Department, Topeka Fire Department, Avilla Fire Department, Orange Township Fire Department, Huntertown Fire Department, Noble County Sheriff, Noble County EMS, Elkhart County Health Department, Elkhart County Surveyor, Indiana Department of Homeland Security, State Fire Marshall, Federal Railroad Administration, Board of Animal Health, IDNR, IDEM, U.S. EPA, Red Cross, SWS Eagle, CTEH, Environmental Services Inc., Weston, URS, Hulcher Services, RJ Corman Services, Goshen Airport.