La. Train Derailment Leaks Dangerous Caustic, Forcing Evacuations

A train derailment in Louisiana Sunday night spewed hazardous and highly flammable materials, forcing the evacuation of 100 nearby homes. Police said at least 26 of the 76-car Union Pacific train went off the tracks in the town of Lawtell which is located approximately 60 miles west of Baton Rouge.

According to a Union Pacific spokesperson, one of the cars was leaking a highly corrosive substance known as sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide can cause chemical burns to the skin or lead to permanent blindness if it touches the eyes. A second car was leaking lubricant oil. A third car carrying vinyl chloride was damaged, but was not leaking.


One of the cars in La. train derailment was leaking sodium hydroxide. One of the cars in La. train derailment was leaking sodium hydroxide.


Investigators are working to determine what caused the train to derail. The area of track where the incident occurred had just been inspected three hours before the accident.  Workers began replacing the 1800 feed of damaged track the day after the accident. The Governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency in the area of the accident.  US Route 190 was also shut down, but was reopened this morning, with westbound traffic limited to one lane.

Evacuees are being allowed to return to their homes today, escorted by Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) employees, who will monitor the air in each of the homes to ensure readings are normal.

Emergency Film Group’s Sodium Hydroxide & Potassium Hydroxide, a training film about two of the most important caustics used in industry, is part of the HazChem Series of safety training videos. Caustics are strong alkaline chemicals, corrosive to many materials including human tissue. These caustics have also been used in the illegal manufacture of homemade bottle bombs. To learn more, read here. . .


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