Train Carrying Deadly Chemicals Explodes in Nebraska, 4-Mile Evacuation Zone Triggered

Authorities in Nebraska have enforced an emergency evacuation order covering a four-mile radius after a train carrying deadly chemicals exploded.

The explosion occurred in the Union Pacific Railroad’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

The train car was reportedly carrying the hazardous chemical perchloric acid when it exploded, according to the Daily Mail.

The North Platte Volunteer Fire Department issued an urgent evacuation notice and posted an emergency alert on social media.

“Emergency evacuation for the area between Splinter and Front North of railroad track due [to] fire at the railroad involving heavy toxic smoke,” the alert warns.

According to the post, the explosion happened at the rail yard.

A follow-up alert warned that additional residences should prepare for evacuation due to changing wind and weather conditions.

The Nebraska State Patrol also released an official statement about the incident.

“Emergency crews are on the scene of a railcar fire between North Platte and Hershey,” the statement reads.

“Anyone located between Front Road and Splinter Road, from Highway 30 to 1 mile north, is asked to evacuate the area.

“Highway 30 is CLOSED in the area at this time. I-80 is not affected.”

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Videos shared on social media show toxic plumes of smoke billowing into the sky.

An emergency SMS notification was sent out to locals.

The messages alerted the local population to the imminent danger and advised them to evacuate.

Officials are continuing to monitor the situation.

However, they note that most of the evacuation zone appears to be unpopulated farmland.

The latest update from Nebraska’s Emergency Management indicated that the situation had been contained.

“Update on Railcar Fire. NP Fire/Hazmat are on scene w/UPRR,” according to Region 51 Emergency Management in Nebraska.

“The incident is contained.

“They are monitoring the situation & wx, adjusting their tactics & evacuations to keep responders & citizens safe.

“Changes will be put out on media, social media, & RAVE Alerts. Avoid the area.”

In another post, Region 51 confirmed that the evacuation order for the explosion has been lifted.

Two local men agreed that they heard a total of four explosions, according to the North Platte Telegraph.

“It just shook the ground,” Charlie Morland said.

“You could feel it shake the vehicles and stuff.

“I knew it was a pretty violent explosion.”

The other man, a retired railroader said, “It shook our house pretty good.”

Local resident Gregg Robertson described the horrific scene: “I just saw something and I looked and it was just a big ball of flame.

“And then it was just fire, fire, fire, constant for 10, 12 minutes maybe.

“And then the fire went down and smoke kind of increased, and then it was just sparks coming out.”

He also noted the unusual black and orange color of the smoke plumes.

“The east plume was like black smoke,” he said.

“The west plume was orange smoke, something like I’ve not seen from a fire.”

Union Pacific Railroad confirmed to the Daily Mail that the explosion occurred within a container, causing several railcars to catch fire.

Importantly, the railcar had not derailed and had been stationary in the yard for several hours before the incident.

The company reassured the public that no personnel were injured in the blast.

The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

Perchloric acid is a mineral acid that is stronger than sulfuric acid, nitric acid, and hydrochloric acid. It is used to prepare perchlorate salts, including ammonium perchlorate, which is a component of rocket fuel.

From the University of Illinois:

Perchloric acid is one of the strongest acids known.

At room temperature, aqueous solutions up to 72% do not have significant oxidizing power, and the corrosive properties are very similar to other mineral acids.

However, the oxidizing power increases with concentration and temperature.

Concentrated perchloric acid (72%) heated above 150⁰C is a strong oxidizer, and reacts violently with organic material, which has resulted in devastating explosions in the past.

The monohydrate of perchloric acid (85%) is a good oxidizer at room temperature.

Anhydrous perchloric acid is highly unstable, explodes upon contact with organic material, and explodes spontaneously at room temperature after storage for a few days.

Its preparation should be avoided.

Perchloric acid forms an azeotrope with water at a concentration of 72.5% perchloric acid.

Therefore, aqueous solutions do not form anhydrous perchloric acid by evaporation.

However, dangerous anhydrous perchloric acid can form when an aqueous solution is subjected to strong dehydrating conditions such as exposure to concentrated sulfuric acid, acetic anhydride, or phosphorous pentoxide.

At elevated temperatures, vapors from perchloric acid can condense on surfaces in the ductwork of the hood, where they form perchlorate salts that are often highly shock-sensitive and that pose a serious explosion hazard.

Perchloric acid reacts with alcohols and certain other organic compounds to form highly unstable and explosive perchlorate esters.

READ MORE: Major U.S Food Processing Plant Shut Down by Massive Explosion

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By Frank Bergman

Frank Bergman is a political/economic journalist living on the east coast. Aside from news reporting, Bergman also conducts interviews with researchers and material experts and investigates influential individuals and organizations in the sociopolitical world.

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