Derailment, blast crumple buildings near Baltimore

WASHINGTON – A CSX freight train crashed into a trash truck and derailed Tuesday in a Baltimore suburb and the explosion that followed rattled homes at least a half-mile away, sending a plume of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles, officials and witnesses said.

The train went off the tracks at about 2 p.m. in Rosedale, a Baltimore eastern suburb. Hazmat teams were on the scene, but Baltimore County Fire Chief John J. Hohman said at a news conference that no toxic inhalants were burning and officials did not order an evacuation. The truck driver was taken to the hospital in serious condition and two CSX workers aboard weren’t hurt, fire officials said.

Dale Walston said he lives about a half-mile away from the blast site and that he thought he could smell chemicals.

“It shook my house pretty violently and knocked things off the shelves,” he said in an email to The Associated Press.

See amateur video of the explosion following the derailment below:

The thick plume of black smoke drifted across the Baltimore city line and covered the eastern part of the city. The face of one warehouse near the train tracks blew off. CSX spokesman Gary Sease said in an email that sodium chlorate is on one of the trains, which the Department of Transportation classifies as a hazardous material.

However, Hohman said the chemical is not in one of the cars that was still burning into the evening. Earlier, fire officials had said building actually collapsed, but Hohman modified that later to say two warehouses were heavily damaged by the explosion and other buildings were damaged, but none collapsed. Overhead photos showed the front of one warehouse blown out.

An Amtrak spokeswoman said its Northeast Corridor service is not being affected.

More than one video posted to Facebook shows the fire, then minutes later, an explosion rattles the area. Hohman said firefighters had considered letting the the blazes burn out but later decided to hose them down. They had advised anyone within 20 blocks who can see the smoke to leave but said later people could stay.

Several on Twitter tweeted photos of the smoke: