Train Derailment Chemical Leak Prompts Evacuation

Monday, October 29th 2007, 9:55 am
By: News On 6

CLARA CITY, Minn. (AP) _ A train derailed and spilled acid early Monday, forcing hundreds to evacuate and schools to close.

The train struck another train that was parked at about 4 a.m., and at least one car leaked hydrochloric acid, a Chippewa County sheriff's dispatcher said. Burlington Northern Santa Fe representative Steve Forsberg said an estimated 50 or more train cars derailed.

Mayor Curt Koenen said fewer than 400 people were evacuated to a church. A school district canceled classes because of the spill.

Hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive and can cause burns if it comes into direct contact with skin or eyes.

Clara City, with a population of about 1,340, is about 21 miles southwest of Willmar in western Minnesota.

Elsewhere, an elementary school and nearby homes were evacuated because of a leak of anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer, at a town in western Kentucky. Paramedics administered oxygen to six people in Herndon but there were no serious injuries, said Christian County emergency operations center director Dee Hopper.

Officials were notified of the leak at the Agri-Chem company in Herndon around 6:23 a.m. CDT, Hopper said. It had not yet been contained by midmorning, he said.

Students at the nearby South Christian Elementary school were evacuated by bus and residents of homes within one mile of the plant were told to leave as a precaution, Hopper said. There was no immediate word how many children were involved.

``This is a very dangerous chemical,'' Herndon Volunteer Fire Chief Neil Farmer said.