About 80 people in Sibley, Iowa, were ordered to evacuate. The train was carrying a highly combustible fertilizer and asphalt, officials said.,
Train in Iowa Hauling Hazardous Materials Derails and Catches Fire
About 80 people in Sibley, Iowa, were ordered to evacuate. The train was carrying a highly combustible fertilizer and asphalt, officials said.
There were no reports of injuries or fatalities after about 47 cars of a train derailed in Sibley, Iowa, on Sunday, officials said.Credit…Nathan Minten, via Reuters
About 80 people in a city in northwest Iowa were evacuated on Sunday afternoon after part of a Union Pacific train hauling hazardous materials, including fertilizer and asphalt, derailed and then caught fire, officials said.
The fire continued to burn on Monday morning.
The derailment of about 47 cars took place around 2 p.m. local time on Sunday in Sibley, said Robynn Tysver, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific. By 3 p.m., local officials had texted an evacuation order to people nearby, citing “HAZMAT train derailment and fire.”
There were no reports of injuries or fatalities, said Lucinda Parker, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
The train was headed to North Platte, Neb., about 380 miles away, when it derailed, Ms. Tysver said on Monday. The affected cars were carrying asphalt, hydrochloric acid, which is often used to process steel, and potassium hydroxide — also known as lye. One of the cars had also been carrying liquid ammonia nitrate, a highly combustible fertilizer.
“It was empty at the time of the derailment, but there was likely residue inside the car,” Ms. Tysver said.
Wendy J. Buckley, the president and chief executive of STARS Hazmat Consulting, said that ammonium nitrate mixed with diesel fuel is “a very explosive mixture.” The combination is used in the mining industry as an explosive.
Sibley, which is about 80 miles north of Sioux City, has a population of about 2,700. Because of the wind on Monday morning, smoke was blowing toward the countryside and away from the town, Glenn Anderson, the Sibley city administrator said. He added that it was fortunate that the train derailed on Sunday afternoon when there weren’t many people downtown.
Dan Bechler, the emergency management coordinator for Osceola County, said in an interview Sunday that responders were still trying to piece together what happened.
Robin Eggink and her husband, Scott, were eating inside a Pizza Hut when they noticed a large train nearby.
“It was slowing down and then it came to a stop,” she said.
Mr. Eggink, 52, had worked as a train conductor for about a year and “he just knows by the noise that it shouldn’t have came to a stop like it was,” she said. He said the noise sounded like the “squeal” of some type of brake being deployed.
Seeing the train stop at that location was unusual, Ms. Eggink said. The train was blocking a highway intersection and “it can’t stop for very long where it’s at,” she recalled thinking.
About 10 minutes later, they saw the smoke and fire, Ms. Eggink said.
Ms. Buckley, whose firm advises companies on how to transport and store hazardous material, said a train derailment resulting in the loss of hazardous material is very uncommon.
Trains, she said, are the safest transportation method for such material.
“Per million miles traveled, rail is far safer than highway or vessel,” she said. “And you can’t really transport bulk quantities of hazmat on an airplane.”
Heather Murphy contributed reporting.