Six tanker cars, three of them carrying caustic or hazardous chemicals — including lye — derailed Tuesday in Addis, Louisiana, triggering a state of emergency and the mandatory evacuation of residents around the scene, West Baton Rouge Parish officials confirmed.
The parish’s Office of Homeland Security ordered everyone within 1,000 feet to leave the area, in about 35 homes, while the cars are righted. People within 300 feet were told they weren’t likely to be allowed back in until Wednesday morning. Officials said the cars didn’t appear to have been damaged and that the evacuations were precautionary.
NBC station WVLA of Baton Rouge reported that the Addis VFW Hall was being used as an emergency shelter. Addis is across the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, the state capital.
Authorities said the chemical cars, which were being pulled by a Union Pacific locomotive, were carrying sodium hydroxide, better known as lye; propylene oxide, an eye and respiratory irritant; and propylene dichloride, a strong acid.
West Baton Rouge Parish President Riley Bertholet Jr. declared a local disaster emergency, and Addis police were going door to door Tuesday night to alert residents and assist with the evacuation, the homeland security office said.
Damaged track, not speed or operator error, was suspected in the derailment, which happened about 1:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. ET), authorities said. Rail safety has been under close scrutiny since an Amtrak commuter train derailed last week in Philadelphia, killing eight people.