A train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed and crashed in East Palestine, Ohio, forcing roughly 2,000 residents to evacuate. Officials say it's safe to return, but not everyone is convinced.
What Happened? On February 3, a train operated by Norfolk Southern Corp. derailed from the tracks and crashed in East Palestine, Ohio, a small town of roughly 5,000 people near the state border with Pennsylvania. Responding officials reportedly feared the fire from the wreckage would ignite the chemicals still stored inside the train cars, leading them to call for roughly 2,000 nearby residents to evacuate while crews drained the train cars and initiated a controlled burn of the chemicals.
On February 8, officials announced it was safe for evacuated residents to return home. In the days since, lingering odors and nagging headaches have residents and health experts worried about potential health risks. Reports of dying pets and a creek full of dead fish are raising fears from environmentalists of a potential ecological crisis in the region.
Lacking Response? The response to the accident from mainstream media, Norfolk Southern, and the federal government is facing heavy criticism. Some have accused national media and leadership of ignoring the crisis since it occurred in a small, Midwest town and have deemed the response from national leadership, such as Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, to be inadequate.
Some left-rated media have also accused the right of using the disaster to falsely claim bias against rural conservatives. A HuffPost (Left Bias) piece cited de-regulatory efforts under the Trump Administration as having contributed to the accident, placing blame on Norfolk Southern for allegedly cutting corners on safety precautions. Some right-rated media have framed mainstream news networks as biased for purportedly forgoing coverage of the story. Charlie Kirk (Right Bias) argued that the crisis is being ignored because East Palestine's residents are predominantly white and conservative.
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Snippets from the Right
"Although there were many toxic substances released, vinyl chloride is potentially the most dangerous. It can be readily absorbed across all body compartments, including skin, eyes, mouth and respiratory, with inhalation being the most common following an explosion. Upon exposure, acute toxicity can lead to central nervous system and respiratory failure."
"In a region of the country that has already dealt with losing jobs to offshoring, disinvestment and a fentanyl epidemic, the East Palestine disaster and the response to it is just one more data point that reinforces the fact that elites don't give a damn about Ohio."
Snippets from the Center
"More than a week after the derailment, chemical odors continued to swirl Tuesday through the village on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Railroad workers in yellow safety vests used heavy machinery to turn charred railcars into scrap and scoop up contaminated soil."
"Fish have turned up dead in streams, pets have died, and residents have reported experiencing symptoms associated with exposure to toxic chemicals following the derailment of a cargo train near East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3. But many people fear the true scale of the environmental effects has yet to be identified, despite being told on February 8 it was safe to return to their homes."
Snippets from the Left
"Right-wing figures responding to the derailment in Ohio have conveniently neglected to mention the communities of color, such as in Flint, Michigan, that have been consistently failed by the government during their public health crises."
"Officials are in the early stages of investigating what went wrong in East Palestine. But the derailment has sparked fear in rail towns across the country, and both industry experts and lawmakers have renewed calls for stronger safety standards for trains transporting hazardous materials before another similar disaster strikes."