A train car carrying toxic acid at a Nebraska railyard exploded and caught fire, leading to evacuations within a four-mile radius due to the release of “heavy toxic smoke”.
Emergency crews later contained the railcar fire that occurred on Thursday near North Platte.
According to the North Platte volunteer fire department, there was an explosion at the Union Pacific Railroad Bailey Yard around 12.10pm.
The railyard where the explosion happened covers 2,850 acres (1,153 hectares) and stretches as wide as eight miles (13 km) at one point. It is considered to be the world’s largest railyard.
Reports said an emergency evacuation order was given for anyone located between Front Road and Splinter Road.
The Nebraska State Patrol closed Highway 30 in the vicinity, although Interstate 80 remained unaffected, local media said.
The exact cause of the explosion and fire remains unknown at this point.
The railcar contained perchloric acid, a hazardous substance used in the production of food, drugs, biological products and explosives.
Reports said the railcar had been stationary for at least two hours at Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte.
Union Pacific officials said several other rail cars also caught fire, which were all contained.
There was no derailment and no injuries were reported among Union Pacific employees, who were successfully evacuated.
The authorities have initiated an investigation, as was stated by the company.
It wasn’t immediately clear how many homes were included in the mostly rural area that was evacuated on the edge of the city.
Railroad spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said the fire had been extinguished by 5.30pm Thursday.
North Platte, which is about 230 miles (370km) east of Denver and about 250 miles (400km) west of Omaha, has a population of about 23,000.
The incident comes after a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio earlier this year.
A foreboding black cloud had risen up from the accident site as officials performed a controlled burn. The accident had led to over 2,000 residents being evacuated due to health concerns over the chemical leak, but who were later allowed to return.
Additional reporting by agencies