A freight train carrying ethanol derailed in Ohio’s capital city of Columbus around 2 a.m. this morning, sending flames shooting upwards of 20 to 30 feet into the air and landing two people in the hospital, reports USA Today.
11 cars of a 98 car train were sent screeching off the tracks near Interstate 71, just south of the Ohio State University campus early Wednesday morning. The derailment took place in a largely industrial area located a few blocks away from major residential neighborhoods.
Chris Mumma, a photographer from New Albany, says that he saw the blast from 10 miles away and immediately rushed towards the flames to get a closer look. As he approached he saw the blaze was reaching 20 to 30 feet into the sky, but quickly retreated as he knew something wasn’t right.
“I noticed there was a chemical smell, and I was inhaling it so I backed up a little bit more because I wasn’t sure what I was getting involved with,” he said. That smell soon made him nauseous, sending him to the hospital.
According to MSNBC, several of the cars contained styrene, which if ignited can radiate a harmful gas that can affect the nervous system upon inhalation.
Residents only blocks from the explosion watched the scene from their homes before being forced to leave because of the mile wide evacuation order.
“I saw flames, then I heard a loud sound, like a boom, and saw the flames shooting higher,” said Joel Priester, who lives 2 blocks away.
“It looked like the sun exploded.”
The cause of the derailment is still under investigation as authorities have chosen to let the ethanol finish burning before they approach the scene.