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Video: Norfolk Southern train may have been on fire 20 miles before East Palestine derailment

The cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed Friday night in East Palestine, Ohio, continues on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.
Gene J. Puskar
The cleanup of portions of a Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, continues on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023.

The Norfolk Southern freight train that derailed in East Palestine earlier this month may have been on fire for 20 miles before it came off the tracks, based on surveillance video posted by the Weather Channel.

The video is from a building near the railroad tracks in Salem, 20 miles west of East Palestine. It shows sparks and flames coming from underneath railcars.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it is reviewing several videos of the train. The board says preliminary evidence points to a broken axle as the cause of the derailment.

"Surveillance video from a residence showed what appears to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of overheat failure moments before the derailment," the NTSB said in a Tuesday statement.

The board said it has isolated the axle, which has been sent to an NTSB lab in Washington, D.C., for further review.

East Palestine is holding a town hall meeting Wednesday night to address residents' questions about the derailment and the controlled release and burn of the toxic chemicals it was carrying. Eleven of the 38 derailed cars held hazardous chemicals including butyl acrylate and vinyl chloride. The NTSB had previously indicated only 10 cars contained hazardous materials.

Residents were allowed to return home a week ago, but some have reported lingering odors from the Feb. 6 burn, as well as sick or dead animals in the area.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and other state officials said air quality tests show the air is safe. But water quality remains a lingering concern.

"We are recommending that people in the community consider using bottled water," Ohio Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said at a press briefing Tuesday.

Municipal water sources are being tested, and drinking water treatment processes should remove any contaminants, according to Tiffani Kavalec, chief of the Division of Surface Water for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Ohio EPA is also tracking a plume of chemicals from the derailment that is currently traveling down the Ohio River.

"It's moving at about a mile an hour," Kavalec said. "Tracking allows for potential closing of drinking water intakes to allow the majority of the chemicals to pass. This strategy along with drinking water treatment are both effective at addressing these contaminants."

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