Youngstown, FL Train Derailment with Chlorine Gas Cloud, Feb 1978

DEADLY GAS CLOUD CHASES 2,500

YOUNGSTOWN, Fla. (UPI) -- A cloud of chlorine gas that escaped from a derailed freight train and has already killed eight people floated north, triggering a string of evacuations in its path.

"We don't know how far we're going to have to go with the evacuation," a spokesman for the Bay County Sheriff's Department said. "The chemists are telling us when we have an unsafe area."

At least 2,500 people with a five-mile radius of Sunday's derailment were evacuated, Civil Defense Director RON JOHNSON said propane leaking from one of the tank cars could mix with the billowing chlorine and explode, turning the 115-car freight train into a chain of fire.

Chemical specialists from the Environmental Protection Agency planned to spray the train wreck area with detergent today to cut off the spewing chlorine and propane gas and blot out fires or explosions.

Forty-three cars of the Atlanta and St. Andrews Bay freight train jumped the tracks about 2 a.m. CST Sunday. One of the chlorine tank cars cracked open on impact and the toxic gas boiled out.

Shifting winds spread the chlorine, stalling cars and running them off the road as the gas choked off oxygen from automobile engines. Some motorists were trapped in their cars and died. Others jumped free and fled to the nearby swamp, where they were caught by the searing fumes.

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