Train derailment, chemical spill disrupt Thanksgiving for Kentucky town

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) -A train derailment that spilled molten sulfur in a remote area of eastern Kentucky on the eve of Thanksgiving disrupted holiday plans for local residents on Thursday, some of whom were forced to evacuate after the incident.

The derailment occurred north of Livingston, a town of about 200 people, and involved 16 cars, including two carrying molten sulfur that spilled some of their load.

Railroad operator CSX said in a statement that the fire from the spilled sulfur had been extinguished.

When molten sulfur burns, it can release sulfur dioxide, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says can cause severe irritation to the respiratory tract, eyes, mucous membranes, and skin.

CSX said “specialized equipment” was deployed to conduct air monitoring in the area. The cause of the derailment was under investigation.

“Local authorities have determined it safe for residents to return to their homes,” the company said, adding that its crews will now focus on recovering the product on the ground and removing the derailed cars.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear had declared an emergency, and local officials went door to door to evacuate some residents, who were moved to a school for safety.

“I was freaking out because I said, ‘We are cooking, we got turkeys in the ovens. We can’t leave.’ They were like, ‘You have to go, it is a bad situation, you have to go,'” Livingston resident Linda Todd told a CBS News affiliate.

Another resident, Evelyn Gray, told an NBC News affiliate that the released chemical contents caused her to have an asthma attack.

“It just hit me so hard, I could hardly breathe,” she said.

No fatalities or injuries associated with the derailment were reported.

The railroad operator said it had secured hotels for those affected and was working with restaurants to provide them meals and other necessities.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington, additional reporting by Deep Vakil and Daksh Grover in Bengaluru, editing by Ross Colvin, Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)