Middlebury residents evacuate after train derailment

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(Host) Hundreds of Middlebury residents could not go home last night because a train derailment spilled gasoline in the heart of downtown.

Emergency officials sealed off a 30-street area, and set up emergency shelters.

For some residents, the evacuation left them worried about pets left home alone without food. For others, the issue was more serious.

William Poulin teaches French at Middebury College, and was among those left temporarily homeless. He’s recovering from cancer surgery and needed to get to his apartment for medication.

(Poulin) "I’m lucky in one sense. I have colleagues at the college. I can hopefully squat at somebody’s home for the evening. But I will have to get back to my apartment to get medication."

(Host) When Fire Department officials learned off Poulin’s situation, they promised to escort him back to his apartment to pick up his medicine.

Poulin questioned why trains carrying gasoline were allowed through downtown.

(Poulin) "I mean if a derailment makes this much of a mess, and the tracks are in very poor condition, then they obviously shouldn’t be transporting any kind of hazardous materials."

(Host) Madeline Field also lives downtown. She was worried about her pets stuck inside her apartment.

(Field) "Basically our pets are inside, too. We’re asking about their safety and stuff. If we’re not safe to be in there, how are our pets safe to be in there… is what’s going through my head."

(Host) Emergency response officials worked to contain the gasoline and prevent a possible fire.

Some of the fuel spilled into the Otter Creek which flows through downtown.

George Crombie, Vermont’s Natural Resources Secretary, was on the scene. He said officials will check in the days ahead for any environmental damage.

(Crombie) "The first priority right now is safety in the community, so that’s the number one priority. And the second is environmentally to get on that. They’ve put some booms in the water and we’re going to be monitoring tonight, tomorrow and ensure that we’re controlling any type of spill that’s coming out of those tankers."

(Host) The clean up work is difficult because of the location of the accident. The derailment occurred in an area with a steep bank on one side, and the Otter Creek on the other. Officials said it will be hard to get equipment to the site to remove the fuel and the overturned rail cars.


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