OMAHA, Nebraska – An explosion inside a shipping container at the world’s largest rail terminal prompted evacuations in western Nebraska on Thursday due to toxic smoke generated when one of the chemicals on board caught fire.
Around noon, an explosion occurred inside an intermodal container on a railcar at Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte, although it was unclear what caused the explosion, railroad spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said.
No one was injured and no vehicles derailed.
Authorities evacuated everyone within a four-mile radius of the train station, which is about 280 miles west of Omaha, due to smoke, and U.S. Highway 30 was closed between North Platte and Hershey.
Interstate 80 was not affected by smoke.
North Platte has a population of approximately 23,000.
The North Platte Fire Department said in a publish in X that evacuations were carried out because the fire at the train station involved “dense toxic smoke.”
Firefighters did not immediately respond to a call seeking more details.
One of the containers involved was carrying perchloric acid, which is used in explosives as well as a variety of foods and medications, Tysver said.
The railway station where the explosion occurred covers 2,850 acres and extends up to eight miles at one point.
An explosion inside a shipping container caused an evacuation at the Union Pacific rail terminal in Nebraska due to toxic smoke on September 14, 2023.Facebook
A few years ago, an eight-story observation tower called the Golden Spike Tower was built to allow people to watch thousands of cars being sorted from train to train on Union Pacific’s key east-west corridor.
Rail safety has been a key concern across the country since a Norfolk Southern train derailed and caught fire in eastern Ohio.
That derailment prompted evacuations and calls for reform from members of Congress and regulators.
The National Transportation Safety Board did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press asking if they would send a team to investigate the explosion.