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Overturned Rail Car Forces Evacuation in Southwest Missouri

December 8, 1986

ANDERSON, Mo. (AP) _ A railroad tank car leaked toxic vinyl acetate after it and 10 others derailed Monday, forcing the evacuation of about 100 people, and two railroad brakemen were overcome by fumes, police said.

Schools and several businesses in the southwest Missouri town of about 1,200 were closed as a precaution following the accident, which occurred in a residential neighborhood shortly before 11:30 a.m., authorities said.

An area about 2,500 feet around the derailment of the cars on the Kansas City Southern freight train was evacuated and sealed off immediately after the accident, said Police Chief Jerry Hatfield.

Only the car containing vinyl acetate - described as a flammable liquid that can irritate the eyes, ears, nose, throat and mucous membrane - created any problem, he said.

About 24,500 gallons of vinyl acetate were slowly leaking from the tanker into a ditch along Missouri 59, said Joe Hanke, McDonald County’s emergency preparedness director.

The cause of the derailment was not known, McDonald County Sheriff Lou Keeling said.

The two brakemen were treated at a Neosho hospital for burning eyes and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Emergency teams from Kansas City and Chicago were en route to clean up the toxic liquid that was spilling into a ditch.

Vinyl acetate is a highly flammable chemical used to make polyvinyl resins, often used in latex paint, said Rowena Michaels, a spokeswoman for the EPA’s regional office in Kansas City, Kan. It can cause death if inhaled or ingested, she said.

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