A train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil derailed in southern West Virginia yesterday afternoon, sending at least one into the Kanawha River, igniting at least 14 tankers and sparking a house fire, officials say. One person was being treated for potential inhalation issues, but no other injuries were reported, according to a news release from train company CSX. Nearby residents were told to evacuate as state emergency response and environmental officials headed to the scene about 30 miles southeast of Charleston. Two water treatment plants in the area have been shut down.
The state was under a winter storm warning and getting heavy snowfall at times, with as much as 5 inches in some places. It's not clear if the weather had anything to do with the derailment, which occurred along a flat stretch of rail. A witness says he felt the heat from one of the explosions at his home about a half mile up the hill. One of the explosions that followed sent a fireball at least 300 feet into the air, he says. "We felt the heat, I can tell you that," he says. "It was a little scary. It was like an atomic bomb went off." The office of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, which has issued a state of emergency, says the tanker cars were loaded with Bakken crude from North Dakota and headed to Yorktown, Va. (Read more West Virginia stories.)