OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An explosion in a shipping container at the world’s largest freight yard prompted evacuations in western Nebraska on Thursday as toxic smoke was released when one of the chemicals on board caught fire.
Around noon, an explosion occurred in an intermodal container on a railcar at Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard in North Platte. However, it is not clear what caused the explosion, said railway spokeswoman Robynn Tysver.
No one was injured and no cars were derailed.
Authorities evacuated everyone within four miles of the rail yard, which is about 280 miles west of Omaha, due to smoke and closed U.S. Highway 30 between North Platte and Hershey.
Interstate 80 was not affected by the smoke.
North Platte has a population of approximately 23,000.
The North Platte Fire Department said in a Post on X that the evacuations were carried out because there was “heavy toxic smoke” from the fire at the freight yard.
The fire department did not immediately respond to a call seeking further details.
One of the containers involved contained perchloric acid, which is used in explosives and a variety of foods and medicines, Tysver said.
The rail yard where the explosion occurred covers 2,850 acres and is up to eight miles wide at one point.
Several years ago, an eight-story observation tower called the Golden Spike Tower was built to allow people to watch thousands of railcars being sorted from one train to another on Union Pacific’s vital east-west corridor.
Railroad safety has been a top concern nationwide since a Norfolk Southern train derailed and caught fire in eastern Ohio.
This derailment led to evacuations and calls for reform from members of Congress and regulators.
The National Transportation Safety Board did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press asking whether it would send a team to investigate the explosion.