Residents returning to US town hit by rail chlorine spill

13 January 2005 20:59  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (CNI)--Safety officials allowed some 2500 residents of Graniteville, South Carolina to return to their homes Thursday, a week after a train wreck spilled chlorine in the town and caused nine deaths.


Aiken County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Michael Frank told CNI today that about half of the 5000 town residents originally evacuated from Graniteville last Thursday were allowed to return to homes in that part of the town farthest from the wreck site.


At the site of the wreck, crews have successfully completed the transfer of chlorine from two of three derailed chlorine tank cars. The third chlorine tanker, which was punctured in the early Thursday morning accident, has been successfully patched, Frank said, and crews are beginning to transfer chlorine remnants from that tanker into another car for removal.


Chlorine vented from that punctured tank car killed the train’s engineer and eight town residents in the immediate aftermath of the wreck.


US federal investigators have indicated that a rail switch was inadvertently left open late Wednesday night, 5 January, after a train crew moved a locomotive and two freight cars off the main Norfolk Southern (NS) rail line through Graniteville onto a siding adjacent to a textile mill. About four hours later, in the early morning of Thursday, 6 January, a northbound NS freight train rolling through Graniteville at speed was suddenly shunted off the main line onto the textile mill siding where it collided with the standing locomotive.


Frank said officials at the wreck site expect the remaining chlorine tank car will be emptied and secured sometime today, and the rest of the Graniteville population likely will be able to return to their homes tomorrow.


Frank also reported that more than 60 persons not residents of Graniteville have tried to have their official residence addresses changed to indicate they are Graniteville residents, apparently in hopes of receiving settlement payments from Norfolk Southern. Frank said police have arrested one woman who falsely changed her residence address and then received a payment from NS. She will be prosecuted for theft by fraud, Frank said, and other arrests are likely.


NS sources said at least one lawsuit has already been filed against it as a consequence of the Graniteville accident.


NS has declined to reveal the names of the owners or shippers of the chlorine cargoes.

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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