Society
1:33 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

MetroSafe: Fire Injures Workers at Derailment Site

Credit louisvilleky.gov

By Joseph Lord

Update: At least two contract workers will be transported to a hospital Wednesday after a fire near the wreckage site of the train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County, said a spokeswoman for Louisville-Jefferson County EMA/MetroSafe.

The fire did not happen in the wrecked cars that contain dangerous materials, said Jody Duncan, the MetroSafe spokeswoman. It's unclear whether the workers were injured, and unknown how serious any injuries may be.

It's also unclear if the incident will affect plans to stabilize two cars containing hydrogen fluoride.

Earlier: A new shelter-in-place warning and Level-3 Hazmat situation will likely be ordered Wednesday near the site of a train derailment in southwestern Jefferson County as a precaution, because contractor are planning to stabilize two cars containing the dangerous chemical hydrogen fluoride.

The shelter-in-place warning may cover as many as five miles, said Doug Hamilton, the executive director of Louisville-Jefferson County EMA/MetroSafe.

Two cars in the wreckage from the Monday morning derailment contain hydrogen fluoride, Hamilton said. Authorities believe that the hydrogen fluoride did not leak.

But contractors aren't certain how the wrecked cars will hold up when they're stabilized -- leading to the precautionary emergency measures, Hamilton said.

"We do not know where the damage may be," he said of the cars.

Of hydrogen fluoride, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said:

Breathing hydrogen fluoride can burn lung tissue and cause swelling and fluid accumulation in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Skin contact with hydrogen fluoride may cause severe burns that develop after several hours and form skin ulcers.

The evacuation of homes near the derailment is still in place. 

The workers will move the two cars containing hydrogen fluoride from a ravine and place them upright, Hamilton said. Off-loading the hydrogen chemical should not pose the same risks as moving the cars. About 75 people are at the derailment site working on the clean-up; R.J. Corman Railroad Group is the contractor.

An emergency response bus from Louisville Metro Emergency Medical Services will also be at the site for what Hamilton called "an abundance of caution."

Louisville area hospitals will be notified that the work is being done, so they can prepare for potential patients suffering hydrogen fluoride exposure, Hamilton said.