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Freight train derailment, explosion in Ohio prompts mile-wide evacuation

Fire officials in Columbus, Ohio, battle a massive blaze after a train derailed, with residents within a mile of the accident evacuated. TODAY's Natalie Morales reports.

A mile-wide area was evacuated after a freight train derailed in Columbus, Ohio, early Wednesday, causing an explosion and fire.

Two people who were close by when the train derailed were injured. The victims drove themselves to the hospital but their conditions are unknown.

The train crew was able to safely move the locomotives and three freight cars from the scene. There were no injuries to train personnel.

Teams trained to deal with hazardous materials are on the scene of the blaze, near the Ohio State Fairgrounds in north Columbus.

According to Mike McNutt with Columbus Public Health, several of the train cars contained styrene which, if ignited, can emanate a gas that affects the nervous system if inhaled.

It would become a "nerve agent," McNutt said, adding that those cars were the biggest concern in calling for the evacuation. HAZMAT crews had moved those cars away from the fire.

Andrew Spear / AP

Lt. Terry Bush said the accident happened at about 2 a.m. Wednesday in a mixed-use part of the city.

McNutt toldNBC4, "It doesn't look like the situation is escalating."

Officials say a southbound train with two locomotives and 98 cars of mixed freight derailed between E. 11th and E. 5th avenues at about 2 a.m. ET.

Read the full story at NBC 4 in Columbus, Ohio

Eleven cars derailed but it is not known just how many caught fire. At least two were still burning at 7:30 a.m. Officials said they will allow the alcohol to burn for the next six to eight hours.

Rail company Norfolk Southern is working with emergency personnel to determine what cargo is on fire.

Residents in the area are being asked to evacuate between E. 11th to E. 5th avenues, and N. Grant Avenue to Interstate 71. Police say the evacuees have been taken to the Rhodes Building at the fairgrounds.

The cause of the incident was under investigation.

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