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Residents of Kentucky town return home after toxic train derailment

Some weren't happy to hear their Thanksgiving plans were being canceled the day before the big meal.
Cots in a Kentucky school gymnasium serving as a evacuation center after a toxic train derailment.
Posted at 2:06 PM, Nov 24, 2023

Residents from a town in eastern Kentucky are now returning home after having their Thanksgiving plans ruined by a toxic multi-car train derailment.

The incident occurred Wednesday near Livingston, Kentucky, a small town located about 130 miles southeast of Louisville. According to railroad operator CSX, the derailment involved at least 16 rail cars, two of which were transporting molten sulfur and caught fire after the cars were breached.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause respiratory issues and make breathing difficult. The gas is typically produced from fossil fuel combustion at power plants.

The issue prompted Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to declare a state of emergency and residents in the area were advised to evacuate. 

Cindy Bradley said she had just finished cooking and preparing for Thanksgiving when officials came frantically knocking at her door, telling her she needed to leave immediately. She ended up in a local middle school gymnasium — unsure of what was to come next. 

"I had just cooked everything," she told Scripps News Lexington. "I was like 'we're having Thanksgiving tomorrow. I guess we're not." 

New railroad merger could impact rail safety nationwide
Canadian Pacific trains sit idle on the tracks due to a strike at the main CP Rail train yard

New railroad merger could impact rail safety nationwide

The railroad industry as a whole is facing intense scrutiny by the government and the public since the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.


Evelyn Gray was also at home when the derailment occurred and blamed chemicals from the crash for triggering an asthma attack.

"It just hit me so hard," she said. "I [could] hardly breath."

Gray added that she's feeling better now, but concerns are running high among other residents who are unsure of the long-term impacts the derailment may have. CSX said Thursday the fire had been extinguished and that the air quality was determined safe for people to return to their homes.

"CSX encourages residents in proximity to the incident who are concerned about their safety to utilize the lodging that the company has secured in Mt. Vernon, Kentucky," the company said in a statement. "In addition to the hotels, the CSX team is working with local restaurants to provide meals for affected residents. CSX is covering the cost for both."

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation.