Train Derails, Spills Acids in SoCal’s Riverside County

MECCA, California, March 4, 2008 (ENS) – A Union Pacific train carrying hazardous materials derailed while crossing the southern California desert last night, sending up a plume of fumes and smoke and forcing evacuations, according to the Riverside County Fire Department. An undetermined amount of hydrochloric acid and phosphoric acid was spilled at the scene.

Photo Courtesy of Riverside County Fire

Fire officials say 28 cars derailed two miles north of Mecca, a farming community of 3,000 people. A total of 40 residents were evacuated from the general area as a precaution. No injuries have been reported.

Sixteen fire engines and a helicopter converged at the scene of the derailment to extinguish the blaze, which was reported about nine o’clock last night.

The train was hauling tanker cars full of hydrochloric acid, a corrosive substance, and phosphoric acid, which is milder. Both acids were spilled when the train derailed, but officials cannot now tell how much acid was spilled until they can get closer to the damaged cars. The fumes have so far kept workers away.

Six of the railcars are still upright but 22 cars are in a mangled pile off the railroad tracks. Officials are keeping the general public out of a one mile radius around the site.

None of the tank cars filled with hazardous materials caught fire, says Captain Fernando Herrera of the Riverside County Fire Department. The column of dark smoke that could be seen for miles was from burning railroad ties and other cars, he said.

Story by Ens-newswire.comExcerpts from the Riverside County Press Releases:

3/4/2008 6:30 a.m.: 28 cars have derailed; six are upright and 22 are in a mangled pile off the railroad tracks. A total of 40 residents were evacuated from the general area as a precaution. The Early Warning Notification System (Reverse 9-1-1) was implimented via Riverside County Office of Emergency Services and Riverside County Sheriff’s Office. 11 of the evacuees are being sheltered at Coachella Valley High School (83800 Airport Blvd). Other evacuees are staying with friends or relatives. Public Safety personnel are working in a unified command structure with multiple local, state, federal and private agencies. They are proceeding safely and methodically to mitigate the hazardous materials leaks so that the railcars can be uprighted and removed.

CALFIRE/Riverside County Fire Deprtment in conjunction with Union Pacific Railroad are making progress on the incident. Hazardous material teams continue to monitor the air quality which is improving in the area. Teams will start to move uninvolved cars this evening to make access to the crash site and examine damage and determine threat to the area. Crews will be working through the night and will remain in the area until the incident is completely mitigated. 65 total cars on the train. 29 total cars derailed, 6 of the rail cars are upright. 23 of the 29 cars derailed are in the pile and 5 of the derailed cars were leaking. At the time of this update, 2 of the railcars are secure. 3 are still overturned and emergency personnel are working to upright them and evaluate the situation. Road Closures: Numerous road closures are in effect being coordinated by the California Highway Patrol. • Hwy 111 between Johnson and Cleveland • Hammond between 66th and 70th Ave • Grant between National and Hammond Evacuation Areas: South of Hwy 111 between Johnson and Wheeler and south to the Salton Sea. Evacuation Center: Coachella Valley High School, 83800 Airport Blvd in Mecca.

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