NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Residents whose homes surround the wreckage of Tuesday’s train derailment will be allowed to re-enter their homes starting at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Norfolk & Southern Railroad and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management have been monitoring the environment and believe that as cleanup continues residential homes surrounding the train derailment are now safe.
A hazardous fire on a wrecked train car is now said to be smoldering, but under control in Noble County, yet authorities are not ready to tell nine families who evacuated that it's okay for them to come home.
It relates to a nasty train derailment Tuesday morning near Ligonier.
A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management says topsoil has been dumped on the tank car carrying molten sulfur that caught fire.
The purpose is to cool things down, so the car can be moved from the crash site.
But Rob Elstro from IDEM says two more boxcars caught fire, so it’s too early to give the all clear sign.
Aerial photos show some of the 21 Norfolk-Southern freight cars that wound up in a jumbled mess a few miles west of Ligonier.
The cause of the derailment remains under investigation.
A spokesperson for Norfolk-Southern says he can’t comment on how fast the train was traveling when the mishap occurred.
The speed limit for trains on that stretch of track is 50 miles per hour.
Heavy equipment has been used to move 18 of the derailed cars to a staging area, which will permit crews to proceed with the complicated cleanup.
We asked Elstro when to expect evacuees to be welcomed home.
Rob Elstro/IDEM Spokesperson: " We don't know, even though the fire is contained, it's a matter of it might flair up as the cars are moved, so it's going to take awhile to remove those cars themselves, and then manage the rail bed and the wetlands area that was affected."
Molten sulfur that leaked from the damaged freight car posed a threat to nearby wetlands, and to the Little Elkhart River not far away.
Water quality tests have determined no sulfur has reached the river so far.
Eleven of the derailed cars contained commodities classified as hazardous materials.
Ten cars contained molten sulfur.
One car contained toluene, another hazardous chemical, but none of the toluene appears to be leaking.
IDEM is now saying track repairs may commence soon, and that some train operations in that area should be restored early Thursday.
An average of 90 to 100 trains, including two Amtrak passenger trains, use that route on a daily basis.
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