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Train Derails Near Rochester

December 24, 2001

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A freight train derailed Sunday afternoon, spilling thousands of gallons of chemicals that ignited in a fireball, authorities said. Two nearby houses were heavily damaged.

At least seven of the 42 cars of the CSX Corp. jumped the rails around 3:30 p.m. in Charlotte, a suburb north of Rochester. Two tankers containing methylene chloride and acetone leaked and caught fire, said Fire Capt. Dan McBride.

Part of the train crashed into a house, and another nearby house caught fire soon afterward. No one in the homes was hurt, McBride said.

There was no immediate word whether the chemicals posed environmental or health dangers. No one had been evacuated as of 5 p.m., but officials opened a school for residents unable to get to their homes.

Plumes of black smoke could be seen more than 10 miles away, and witness Sharon Connolly said she saw a huge ball of flame.

``I saw the cars fly in the air. There was an explosion,″ she told the Democrat and Chronicle of Rochester.

Officials said the fire had been contained by early evening.

The train originated from Rochester, said CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan. The chemicals, used in making photographic film, were being delivered to an Eastman Kodak plant.

``We’re working with local authorities to make sure this thing gets resolved safely and quickly,″ Sullivan said.

An engineer, who was not immediately identified, jumped from the train as it tipped, McBride said. The engineer was treated at a hospital for minor injuries.

The conductor, the only other person on board, was not injured.