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Toxic Chemical Pumped From Derailed Tank Car

December 9, 1986

ANDERSON, Mo. (AP) _ Emergency crews pumped a highly flammable, toxic chemical from a leaking, derailed freight car today, but about 100 residents remained evacuated because of the danger from fumes, officials said.

The chemical, vinyl acetate, was pumped from the railroad tanker at the south edge of town into five large tanker trailers that were sent to the derailment scene, Police Chief Jerry Hatfield said.

″They have the car pumped out and are flushing it out. They are also pumping out the spills in the ditches,″ he said.

The derailment occurred shortly before noon Monday on a northbound Kansas City Southern Lines 13-car freight train, forcing schools and some businesses to close and an evacuation of about 100 people from 30 homes in a 2,500-foot radius of the derailment. Two railroad workers were slightly injured.

″Some of the businesses have reopened this morning. Schools have reopened. There is still a danger from fumes, but we’ll have everybody back in by this afternoon,″ the police chief said.

Vinyl acetate, a chemical commonly used in the manufacture of paint and adhesives, can ignite when its temperature reaches 18 degrees, but authorities credited rain and drizzle with keeping the chemical cool and preventing a fire on a day when temperatures were in the 30s and 40s.

Two railroad brakemen were hospitalized for minor injuries after they inhaled some of the chemical fumes, but no one else was reported injured, said Joe Hanke, civil defense director for McDonald County, in southwest Missouri.

None of the other cars contained hazardous materials, authorities said.

″This thing is very volatile and can be easily ignited,″ Hanke said. ″That’s our major concern. The fire hazard is very great.

Crews of emergency workers from Kansas City, Chicago, Tulsa and New Orleans arrived at the scene late Monday afternoon, Hanke said.

The cause of the derailment was undetermined, Hanke said.

Some of the evacuees stayed with friends or relatives in the town of 1,200 Monday night. The senior citizens center in Langan, a village about three miles south of Anderson, was set up for use by the evacuees. Sixteen homes in Lanagan also were offered by their owners as temporary quarters, Hanke said.

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