The incident took place at Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte
Evacuations were ordered in western Nebraska after an explosion inside a shipping container on a rail yard.
The explosion took place at around 12 p.m. local time on Thursday at Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard — the world's largest railyard — in North Platte, Nebraska, according to a post from North Platte Volunteer Fire Department on X (formerly known as Twitter).
The fire department's post also noted an "emergency evacuation for the area between splinter and front North of railroad track due fire at the railroad involving heavy toxic smoke."
"Highway 30 between Hershey and North Platte closed due to heavy toxic smoke at Bailey Yards railcar fire," the volunteer fire department also wrote in a subsequent post.
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. #hazmat #Northplatte #Nebraska pic.twitter.com/zxJWkw2BE5
— North Platte VFD (@NPVFD69101) September 14, 2023
Several hours later, they posted an update on X urging more locals to prepare for evacuation "in the next one to two hours due to wind and weather changing."
North Platte is located in Lincoln County and has a population of about 23,000. According to a report from the Associated Press, evacuations took place within a one-mile radius of the explosion and no injuries occurred as a result of the incident.
Union Pacific spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said, per the AP, that the cause of the explosion is not yet known, though one of the containers involved in the incident contained perchloric acid — a hazardous material that is used in explosives.
Tysver also told local news outlet The North Platte Telegraph that “No Union Pacific personnel were injured, and our employees have been safely evacuated.”
WMTV reported on Thursday that the rail car had been stationary for several hours and the explosion was not caused by a derailment.
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Local man Gregg Robertson shared his experience of seeing the incident with The North Platte Telegraph. "I just saw something and I looked and it was just a big ball of flame," he said.
Robertson continued, "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 told the outlet that he had seen 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."
Around three hours after their first post detailing the explosion, the North Platee Volunteer Fire Department revealed in a post on X that “Fire & Hazmat are on scene with Union Pacific Rail Road. The incident is contained at this time. They are monitoring the situation and the weather, adjusting their tactics and evacuations to keep responders and citizens safe.”
Multiple outlets reported that the fire was extinguished by approximately 5.30 p.m. local time and the evacuation order was lifted shortly after.
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