By STEVE MEGARGEE
MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A car on a CSX train carrying a flammable and toxic substance derailed and caught fire in eastern Tennessee, prompting the evacuation of thousands within a 2-mile radius.
Blount County Fire Department Lt. Johnny Leatherwood said a call about the train derailment came in Wednesday night at 11:50 p.m. EDT in Maryville. Firefighters and hazardous materials workers were on the scene and the fire was still burning at 6:05 a.m. Thursday, he said.
About 5,000 people in the area were being evacuated along with several businesses, Leatherwood said.
In a statement, CSX said the train car that derailed was carrying acrylonitrile, a hazardous material used in a variety of industrial processes including making plastics. The substance is flammable and is dangerous if inhaled, CSX said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency's website, some effects of breathing acrylonitrile include headaches, dizziness, irritability and rapid heartbeat.
Six or seven police officers had to be decontaminated but no deaths have been reported, Leatherwood said.
The train was traveling from Cincinnati to Waycross, Georgia, CSX said.
On its Facebook page, the Blount County Sheriff's Office said early Thursday that the evacuations could last from 24 to 48 hours.
A shelter for residents has been set up at a local high school.
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