Ohio train disaster: Rashes reported, trust in government wanes
Updated 20:26, 18-Feb-2023

Fifteen days after a train carrying hazardous materials, including vinyl chloride, derailed in the eastern Ohio village of East Palestine and sparked a blaze, locals are still enduring symptoms such as ashes and nausea and lacking trust in the governments' response.

Multiple symptoms and distrust in government

Government officials said transportation investigators are studying the cause of the accident and environmental scientists are monitoring air and water quality and so on. However, locals are not comforted by officials' assurances.

"This incident has understandably shaken this community to its core," said Michael Regan, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), while acknowledging the lack of trust many residents have expressed about the response to the February 3 disaster.

"The community has questions," said Regan, adding that "We hear you. We see you, and we will get to the bottom of this."

Noting the EPA said the municipal water and air was safe now, Dave Anderson, a farmer in nearby New Galilee, told the Washington Post that "I'm going to East Palestine and will get a glass of water, and I'm going to ask him (Regan) to drink it because I don't believe it." 

While residents are able to return to their homes after the evacuation order was lifted last week, they have reported burning eyes, nausea, ashes, ill pets or dead fish in waterways. Much remains unknown of the dangers posed to residents by the toxins that spilled, experts said.

"We're not getting any truth, they are not going to own up to what's going on in there until they are forced to," said a resident named Ted Murphy.

"I am frustrated, I just moved seven months ago and I got to move because I'm not safe being here," said Murphy, who is looking for a new place with his 80-year-old mother.

Reading more:

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The 'toxic' system behind train derailments in the U.S.

Smoke and flames rise after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S., February 3, 2023. /CFP
Smoke and flames rise after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S., February 3, 2023. /CFP

Smoke and flames rise after the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, U.S., February 3, 2023. /CFP

No trains shipping gas appealed

The Ohio train disaster also serves as a stark reminder about the dangers of shipping toxic materials through U.S. neighborhoods and communities, according to an opinion piece published by The Philadephia Inquirer.

"What we witnessed in Ohio could certainly happen again. On average, there are more than 1,700 train derailments per year in the United States," said the article titled "The Ohio train disaster could happen in Philly and South Jersey."

Noting there are more than 3.9 million people living within a half-mile of a rail line, the article pointed out that the abundance of trains shipping toxic and hazardous substances across the country poses a serious threat to public safety and environment.

Mentioning there will be trains carrying explosive liquefied natural gas through Philadelphia and its suburbs on a daily basis, the article warned that a single accident could result in highly flammable leaks, choking vapor clouds, explosions and uncontrollable fires. The project, greenlit by former U.S. President Donald Trump, was set to be suspended by the Biden administration. However, unexplained delays by the White House have allowed the dangerous project to proceed.

Members of Congress and local elected leaders must speak to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and call on the White House to stop the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail, according to the article.

"We cannot risk the lives of millions of people in our region for the gas industry's profits. The Ohio train derailment should serve as a wake-up call for our nation's leaders, and a call to action for all of us," it added.

(With input from agencies)

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