Concerned residents demand answers after toxic Ohio train derailed
Nearly two weeks after a train carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, derailed in the eastern Ohio village of East Palestine and sparked a blaze, residents crowded in a high school gym in a Wednesday meeting with officials, demanding answers.
While residents are able to return to their homes after the evacuation order was lifted last week, they have reported burning eyes, ill pets, or dead fish in waterways, thus demanding answers to how the incident was handled and its impact of exposure to those chemicals.
"Why are people getting sick if there's nothing in the air or the water," a woman asked.
"This could've happened to thousands of communities just like ours," said another resident. "We're just trying to figure it out. We just want answers."
Thirty-eight rail cars derailed and an additional 12 cars were damaged by fire, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.
Fear of a possible explosion prompted hundreds of residents to evacuate. A lingering odor of chlorine led crews to manage detonations to release the chemical, discharging toxic and potentially deadly plumes of smoke into the air.
The White House said on Thursday that residents of East Palestine, Ohio, should be concerned in light of the derailment.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said: "They have questions. That's all understandable."
"We're going to get through this together. We're going to hold Norfolk Southern accountable," Jean-Pierre told reporters at the White House, referring to the U.S. freight railroad that owns the derailed train.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tweeted Thursday that he had spoken with the White House to address the need for federal help in East Palestine.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote in an update on Thursday that it had completed screening 486 homes and that test results from the municipal well sampling "showed no water quality concerns."
Norfolk Southern is facing at least four class action lawsuits that allege negligence over the crash.
"I know there are still a lot of questions without answers," Norfolk Southern Corporation President and CEO Alan Shaw wrote in a letter to the community of East Palestine on Thursday. "I know you're tired. I know you're worried."