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Fires Out, Cleanup Continues

December 15, 1987

ROUND ROCK, Texas (AP) _ Chemical fires burned themselves out and the cleanup continued Monday at the site where runaway railroad tank cars derailed, burst into flames and forced evacuation of about 5,000 people.

All but 10 people living in the immediate vicinity returned home by Monday. Officials on Sunday reopened most of the areas evacuated after the Saturday wreck.

Investigators will examine how an an 85-car section of a train that had been uncoupled by a railroad crew outside of Round Rock broke loose and rolled at least three miles, said Alexander Tice, a Union Pacific Railroad spokesman.

Brakes are supposed to be set when cars are uncoupled, he said.

The accident also is being investigated by state and federal officials, Union Pacific spokesman Mark Davis said.

The runaway section of train hit a swtch, and 16 cars tank cars jumped the track, including eight carrying vinyl chloride, Tice said.

Three cars containing liquid propane and butyl alcohol caught fire; the cars holding vinyl chloride, which emits toxic, cancer-causing gas when burned, did not ignite.

Foam and nitrogen gas, a non-flammable gas, will to be pumped into the cars that burned to dissipate any remaining vapors, Tice said.

Cleanup crews righted the vinyl chloride cars, and the railroad will transfer the chemical to tank cars or trucks by the end of the week, Tice said.

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