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Small Kentucky Town Urged to Evacuate after Train Derails, Spilling Chemical

Two of the derailed cars were carrying molten sulfur.


MOUNT VERNON, Ky. (AP) — A train derailed and spilled a chemical in a remote part of eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, prompting officials to encourage residents of a small town to evacuate amid concerns about air quality.

Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement that local officials in Rockcastle County were encouraging residents of Livingston, with a population of about 200, to evacuate. News outlets reported that a shelter was opened at a local middle school.

The derailment involving at least 16 cars happened around 2:30 p.m., according to Bryan Tucker, a spokesperson for railroad operator CSX. Two of the derailed cars were carrying molten sulfur, which caught fire after the cars were breached, Tucker said in an emailed statement. The company was still working to extinguish the fire as of late Wednesday, he said.

It's believed that the fire is releasing sulfur dioxide, but the amount won't be confirmed until measurements are taken from air monitoring equipment that was being deployed Wednesday night, Tucker said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory problems, depending on the concentration and length of exposure. The gas is commonly produced by burning fossil fuels at power plants and other industrial processes, the EPA says.

John Mura, a spokesman for the state Energy and Environment Cabinet, said he didn't have further information on the quantity of chemicals released.

WKYT-TV reported that one crew member was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

Beshear declared a state of emergency in the county.

"By issuing a state of emergency, we are ensuring that every state resource is available to help keep our families safe," Beshear said.

He urged people to avoid the area to allow state and local officials to respond.

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