DUPO — A freight train bearing a flammable liquid used in solvents derailed in an Illinois suburb of St. Louis Tuesday, causing a fire that sent thick, black smoke into the air and prompted the evacuation of nearby schools and residences.
In a news release, Union Pacific says that the train derailed at its yard at about 12:45 p.m. in the town of Dupo, about 8 miles south of St. Louis. The railroad says initial information indicates that the tank car that first caught fire contains a flammable liquid called methyl isobutyl ketone that is typically used as a solvent.
"I could see the smoke all the way up in Belleville," said Dallas Crable, a Dupo resident, who was heading home after mowing lawns on Tuesday in the neighboring city. Crable declined to evacuate. "Unless they tell me its mandatory, I ain’t leaving. I’m far enough back I’m not going to worry about it."
Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South said the smoke from the fire does not pose a significant health hazard. But Dupo Police said as a precaution that students at a grade school, junior high school and high school have been evacuated to a high school farther away. Police also said a few hundred residents of a mobile home park and a subdivision near the tracks have also been evacuated.
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Video shows more than 10 train cars derailed and flames shooting from the wreckage.
By about 3 p.m., officials said the fire had been extinguished and the people who were evacuated had been allowed to return to their homes. Ameren Illinois said several hundred customers were without electricity for a few hours. Electricity was restored by 3:20 p.m., the company said.
St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Herb Simmons said there were no injuries reported. He also said the investigation into the derailment was continuing, including liquid leaking from some of the derailed cars.
— The St. Louis Post-Dispatch contributed to this story.