Derailment, Bridge Collapse, Hazmat Leak Force Evacuations in N.J.

Derailment, Bridge Collapse, Hazmat Leak Force Evacuations in N.J.

News Nov 30, 2012

Nov. 30--A freight train derailed this morning in Paulsboro, Gloucester County with some of the cars leaking hazardous vinyl chloride into the air and nearby waterways.

More than a dozen people at a local marine terminal reportedly had breathing problems, necessitating medical treatment, according to reports.

Paulsboro's three schools were also in lockdown.

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Major roads into Paulsboro, including exits from I-295, were closed, according to news reports.

The derailment of four cars took place about 7:15 a.m. on tracks running over Mantua Creek, which empties into the nearby Delaware River. Some of the cars plunged into the water below when the bridge collapsed.

Up to 18 people at a marine terminal reported they felt ill. Four people were being treated at Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Short-term exposure to the hazardous gas can cause dizziness, drowsiness and headaches, according to the EPA.

Respiratory problems were being reported in nearby communities, but plans for wider evacuations were unclear.

"Right now, everybody's being told to shelter in place, said James Shew, response manager for the South Jersey chapter of the Red Cross.

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Emergency crews were being staged at the Gloucester County Fire Academy in neighboring Clarksboro.

Paulsboro schools are in lockdown, said Lisa Phillips, administrative assistant for Paulsboro High School, which is just a a quarter-mile from the accident scene. She could see "a lot of smoke" and police cars, and staff was detecting a "sweet smell," but no one was having breathing problems, she said.

"Our students are fine. Staff is fine," she said about 8:15 a.m.

All the high schools student were being kept in the cafeteria as staff awaited further instructions from authorities. Billingsport Elementary, also close to the accident scene, and Loudenslager Elementary were also in lockdown.

Check back for details as they develop.

Copyright 2012 - The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer
Frank Kummer and Peter Mucha
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