40 are stilling missing and feared dead after a runway freight train crashed and exploded in a Canada town Saturday morning. At least five at confirmed dead. The tragedy has Alabama emergency officials looking at how they would handle a similar situation.
A train has not derailed in Opelika in the last 25 years, according to Kathrine Raines of the Lee County Emergency Management Agency. In case of such an event, fire department authorities say they are trained to contain the situation if it did happen.
Canada's Prime Minister said parts of Quebec town look like a war zone after a dangerous train explosion Saturday. Trains routinely travel through Lee County. The Emergency Management Director says they can't know what is in every train car.
"There are all manners of chemicals that come through on trains and tractor trailers all the time," says Raines. "That is how they get around."
Maintaining the actual railroads falls on the railroad companies.
Train companies monitor their tracks to make sure it is safe for them to come through. They also work with city officials to make sure that all of the first responders are prepared if tragedy were to happen.
The first responders already have extensive training with different chemicals. They say their job would be to contain a situation until the railroad's hazmat team arrived.
"We do take periodically classes with the rail," says Opelika Assistant Fire Chief Jaime Baca. "They will come in and give us a quick class on how to shut the engines down. How to disconnect cars. Something like that.
Even though County officials do not know what is in every train car, if something were to happen, they would find out fast.
"The trains do not let us know what is going to be on every train that comes through," Raines said. "We don't have a manifest. If there is an incident with that train, we can get the manifest and we will know exactly what is on that train and what order it is on there so we will know what cars are involved in the incident."
Opelika's Fire Department says they have gotten calls about trains leaking chemicals. When that happens, the train keeps going to a less populated area. Then, responders make sure no danger was left behind.
Fire officials told us that they would evacuate the area if there was a train explosion in Lee County. But, there are some cases where you would need to stay in place while they contain any chemical spill.
Train companies are required to separate two cars carrying chemicals that react with each other. Opelika officials says train companies typically respond very quickly to even small incidents.
What do you think: Are you concerned about materials carried by freight trains?
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