Freight Train Derails in D.C., Releases Hazardous Chemicals

Several cars remain overturned after a CSX freight train derailed in Washington on Sunday, May 1, 2016. (DC Fire and EMS via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
Several cars remain overturned after a freight train derailed in Washington on Sunday morning. (DC Fire and EMS via AP)

A CSX freight train derailed near a Metro stop in Washington, D.C. on Sunday morning, sending about 10 cars off the tracks and spilling hazardous material from one of them, emergency officials and the railroad company said.

No injuries were immediately reported and no evacuations were ordered.

The train derailed Sunday about 6:40 a.m. near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station and one of the derailed cars is leaking sodium hydroxide, which is used to produce various household products including soap and detergents, CSX (Chessie and Seaboard System transportation company) spokeswoman Kristin Seay said.

Sodium hydroxide is a highly corrosive chemical that can irritate and burn the skin and eyes. CSX says it is working with first responders to contain the chemical.

It was not immediately clear what caused the derailment. Photos posted by D.C. Fire and Emergency showed cars in a zigzag line across the tracks.

Chris Nellum said he lives nearby and that his window directly overlooks the tracks.

“I thought it was…a semi-truck coming toward the building and when I looked out the window, I saw cars piling up,” said Nellum, who explained that he had just moved in the night before. “So I’m not even used to hearing trains. It was jarring.”

Part of Rhode Island Avenue was closed in both directions. Nellum said a visiting friend tried to leave the area and was told to stay put, but she eventually found a way out. “She’s an environmentalist so she is very concerned about whatever is leaking,” he explained.

The Red Line’s Rhode Island Station is also closed and Metro was reporting delays along that line. Metro said it would establish bus shuttle service between the NoMa and Brookland stations.

The CSX train had three locomotives and 175 cars, including 94 that were loaded with mixed freight, and 81 that were empty.

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