Officials said Friday that an evacuation order for hundreds of people who live near a chemical tanker will remain in effect indefinitely, reported the Associated Press.
A train carrying flammable materials jumped the tracks near West Point, Kentucky on Wednesday, sparking a massive chemical fire that seriously injured three workers.
Doug Hamilton, an official with Louisville's emergency management agency, told the AP the 1.2-mile diameter evacuation zone affects 150 homes in Louisville and 900 people in West Point. They will not be allowed back in their homes because of the potential risks from the hydrogen fluoride and uncertainty over how long it will take to complete the cleanup.
Officials expected the fire to burn out within an hour but had underestimated the amount of chemical in the train car. The blaze is currently under control but still burning while crews attempt to move a dozen derailed train cars away from the flaming tanker, reported the Louisville Morning Call.
P&L Railway spokesperson Bonnie Hackbarth told local NBC affiliate WAVE, "We have not had a major incident with a chemical leak like this – a substantial leak – for over 20 years."
Residents who were evacuated are able to collect checks to help with temporary housing and food expenses. "It's so gracious because if you don't have it and you're so used to being home then we have nothing," resident Peggy Craig told WAVE. "That's exactly what happened to us—we had nothing, you know, and to be told within five to ten minutes to be out of your home is terrible."
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, two employees of R.J. Corman Derailment Services remained hospitalized with serious burns Thursday. Company spokesperson Noel Rush told the newspaper that the employees were improving but one remained in critical condition.