A train car carrying roughly 30,000 gallons of propane was among six that derailed in Florida Tuesday in a scene first responders compared to a “minefield.”
The six train cars fell off the tracks as a Seminole Gulf Railway train rode through Sarasota County, News Channel 8 WFLA reported.
The other five cars that tumbled over were carrying sheetrock.
“It looks like a minefield, honestly,” Southern Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Robert Bounds told the local NBC affiliate station. “The cars are on their side. [The train] was in motion when it happened, so it wasn’t just a tip-over, they really dug in and the tracks are pulled up and torn up.”
The propane tanker car managed to stay intact during the partial derailment and didn’t show signs of any immediate leakage, Bounds said.
“As of right now, there is no real emergency. We’re standing by in the event that there becomes one,” he said. “Right now, the tanks are all sealed, they’re not leaking, there’s no evidence of any damage to them that would cause a leak so we’re just monitoring the situation.”
Workers will need to siphon the propane out of the tanker in order to move the train car upright and clear the tracks. That process is where things have the potential to go wrong, Bounds said.
“The real potential will be when they come to offload the product,” the fire chief said. “That will be when we really have to monitor the situation very closely to ensure there’s no actual leakage.”
Hazmat teams are monitoring the tanker from above using drones and on the ground with thermal imaging technology.
Bounds said the remediation efforts could take one to three days and surrounding buildings could likely be evacuated while crews work.
“We want to ensure everybody’s safety first and foremost so we will probably evacuate the buildings up to the front on 15th Street just for however long it’s going to take them to offload the product,” he said.
The area near the tracks includes several commercial buildings where several hundred people work.
The section of the tracks where the train cars derailed is also about 700 feet from a homeless encampment. Workers have spoken to the individuals about the situation.
It’s unclear what caused the train cars to flip off the tracks, Bounds said. No one was injured.
The partial derailment comes weeks after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on Feb. 3 — worrying residents about the potential long-term health effects from the toxins released.