A train carrying toxic perchloric acid has exploded in a Nebraska rail yard, prompting evacuation orders to be issued, as huge plumes are seen engulfing the city.
The incident happened on Union Pacific Railroad tracks in the city of North Platte earlier today.
North Platte Volunteer Fire Department announced that they would order those living in the area to evacuate due to the toxic smoke from the railroad.
In a post to social media, they said: ‘Emergency evacuation for the area between splinter and front North of railroad track due fire at the railroad involving heavy toxic smoke.
‘Explosion at Union Pacific Railroad Bailey Yards at approximately 12:10 pm.’
In a later update, they announced they would be asking more homes to prepare to evacuate.
They said: ‘Houses between Homestead and Front, be prepared to evacuate in the next one to two hours due to wind and weather changing.’
Pictures shared online by the crew show a thick plume of white smoke moving across farmland.
Further images shared on social media including a video showing thick smoke engulfing an area.
An emergency SMS notification was sent out to civilians in the local area, warning of evacuation from residences and road closures, according to Atlas News.
The majority of the evacuation zone so far appears to be mostly farm land, and has missed the rest of North Platte.
The last update from the Emergency Management in Nebraska said that the incident was now contained, which they would be monitoring.
In a statement to DailyMail.com, Union Pacific Railroad said that an explosion occurred inside a container which resulted in several railcars catching fire.
The railcar did not derail, the company said, and had been in the yard for several hours.
Union Pacific said that one of the containers contained a hazardous chemical called perchloric acid.
Perchloric is a hazardous material used in food, drugs and biocidal products, as well as explosives.
According to the company, there were no personnel injured in the initial explosion.
In a statement, Nebraska State Patrol said: ‘Emergency crews are on the scene of a railcar fire between North Platte and Hershey.
‘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.’
Local man Gregg Robertson told The North Platte Telegraph: ‘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.’
According to Robertson, he saw two smoke plumes rising from the blast site: ‘The east plume was like black smoke. The west plume was orange smoke, something like I’ve not seen from a fire.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in a statement said: ‘FRA is onsite monitoring Union Pacific’s response to an incident at Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska, where emergency responders and local authorities are on the scene containing a fire.’
‘There’s something was burning that — I don’t want no part of smelling what it was, because it was some kind of chemical over there going on.’
Charlie Morland also told the outlet: ‘[The explosion] just shook the ground. You could feel it shake the vehicles and stuff. I knew it was a pretty violent explosion.’
According to a Harvard University safety guide, perchloric acid is an incredibly strong acid that in high concentrations can be explosive.
The acid is also said to be a strong oxidizer and may cause a fire to intensify when in contact with combustible materials.
The guide also warns that prolonged or repeated exposure can damage the thyroid and is harmful if swallowed.
Perchloric acid is also corrosive to metals and can severely corrode the skin and eyes. The guide also asks that if inhaled people should immediately move to fresh air, or call 911.