Evacuations Ordered in Pennsylvania After 40-Car Train Derails: Officials

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in New York. He covers breaking news.
July 17, 2023Updated: July 17, 2023

A Norfolk Southern freight train derailment in Pennsylvania has forced the evacuation of the town of Whitemarsh Township, officials said on July 17.

Officials told local media that the derailment took place at about 5 a.m. on July 17 in the township, which is about a 30-minute drive north of Philadelphia. The train was carrying silicone pellets and other materials, according to police.

“As of now, the only thing that is leaking from any of the rail cars involved, is silicone pellets which pose no risk to the community,” the department wrote in a Facebook post. “We are still gathering information at this time and ask you to follow us here for any important factual updates. We thank all the community partners and resources that are working with us on scene ensuring the safety of our community.”

Other reports indicated that it wasn’t immediately known what was inside the train cars. Hazmat teams were seen at the site, although it isn’t clear whether any substances were leaking from the cars, the Associated Press reported.

Officials confirmed that businesses and homes were evacuated as a precaution, although there’s no known danger to the public. No injuries were reported.

“Whitemarsh Emergency Services is investigating the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in the Plymouth Meeting section of Whitemarsh Township,” the local police department said in a Facebook post at 7 a.m.

“Precautionary evacuations have occurred at the residents [sic] and businesses closest to the scene. It is not believed that further evacuations will be needed, but we will evaluate as we know more.”

More than a dozen cars of the 40-car CSX train, which was operating on tracks owned by Norfolk Southern, appeared to be off the tracks, according to an Associated Press reporter.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro wrote on social media that he’s aware of the crash and will deploy state resources to the area.

“My team and I are monitoring the train derailment in Whitemarsh Twp and assisting local first responders. Thank you to the residents taking precautions at the direction of local authorities. I urge you to continue following their instruction,” he wrote on Twitter.

Norfolk Southern—and the entire rail industry—has been under intense scrutiny since one of its trains derailed in February in East Palestine, Ohio. That train had been carrying vinyl chloride, a highly toxic substance, and there were concerns that toxic chemicals would leach into the town’s groundwater. Amid fears of an explosion, the substance was then set on fire in a controlled burn, creating towering black smoke, forcing evacuations, and raising environmental concerns.

The Epoch Times contacted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for comment but received none by press time.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Correction: A previous version of this article gave an incorrect cause for the vinyl chloride fire. The Epoch Times regrets the error.