(Maryville, Tennessee – July 1, 2015)
Upwards of 5,000 residents of the eastern Tennessee community of Maryville were forced to leave their homes in the wee hours of Thursday morning after a CSX freight train traveling from Cincinnati, OH to Waycross, GA and hauling, among other hazardous materials, liquid acrylonitrile, a material whose fumes, when ignited, can produce deadly cyanide gas, derailed and caught fire in a conflagration which could be seen for miles.
The Blount County, TN Sheriff’s Office warned residents evacuated that their absence from their homes could last from 24 to 48 hours as residents not included in the evacuation were warned against consumption of any well water until further notice. CSX, whose spokesman, Craig Camuso, said the train was carrying 57 cars powered by two locomotives, and that among the hazardous materials on board, besides nine carloads of the acrylonitrile, were 16 tank cars carrying propane and two cars loaded with asphalt. CSX was providing bottled water and hotel rooms for some of the refugees.
A shelter for displaced residents was set up at the local high school as at least 10 first responders and 52 other people were treated for inhalation of hazardous fumes at the Blount Memorial Hospital in Maryville, a town of some 30,000 residents that lies some 20 miles south of Knoxville and just outside The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Many evacuees were unaware of the derailment, which occurred just before midnight Wednesday morning, until they were told to leave their homes.
Brittany Parrott, who was awakened at about 4:30 A.M. Wednesday by a knock on her door, said that, although she never heard the derailment, could smell its toxicity as she left her apartment complex. “You could smell it in the air,” she told KNUS Radio 710 News. “I had a headache, I was feeling nauseated and lightheaded – all the symptoms.”