100 additional homes ordered to evacuate in Paulsboro

Officials work the scene of derailed freight train tank cars in Paulsboro, N.J., Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
December 4, 2012 8:19:41 PM PST
U.S. Coast Guard Captain Kathleen Moore of the Unified Command announced modifications to the scope and duration to the evacuation order in a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

"The shelter in place situation we currently have is going to transition into a targeted evacuation area that will encompass approximately 100 additional homes from the current evacuation zone," Moore said.

The evacuation zone will start at Monroe Street and go south to East Broad and Crown Point Road and from Spruce Street heading east to Mantua Creek.

"Outside of these homes the shelter in place order will be lifted," Moore said.

Moore said this is a precautionary order to ensure safety to the neighborhoods around the incident stemming from the elevated levels of vinyl chloride in the air.

Moore also announced the extension of the evacuation order from Saturday to Sunday.

"We are absolutely committed to working safely and swiftly to get people back in their homes as soon as it is safe to do so," Moore said.

Residents are being told to go to St. Michael's Mutual Club at 406 Memorial Avenue in Gibbstown where they are being processed for temporary housing.

Friday, seven train cars derailed at an old railroad bridge over Mantua Creek; one tanker car ruptured, releasing thousands of gallons of vinyl chloride into the atmosphere. Though no serious injuries or illnesses have been attributed to the leak, dozens of people who live or work nearby were checked out at a hospital emergency room.

Exposure to vinyl chloride for short periods can cause dizziness, breathing problems and other symptoms. Long-term exposure to high levels has been linked to cancer.

Moore said the Coast Guard and other agencies hope to get the remaining 600 to 800 gallons of vinyl chloride out of the breached tanker car by Sunday by dissolving it into a liquid and pumping it out.

Since Friday, the evacuation area was expanded and residents of the entire community were told to shelter in place and keep their windows shut. The latest shelter-in-place order was lifted Tuesday after about 22 hours in effect. But on a day with temperatures over 60 degrees, many people in town were out walking.

Conrail, which owns the rail line, is paying for hotel rooms, meals and other expenses for residents who cannot stay in their homes. A company spokesman said 100 more hotel rooms were reserved for people being told to get out.

A shelter has been set up for evacuated residents at Kingsway High School on Kings Highway in Woolwich Township, Chief Giampola announced. Residents who need transportation to the shelter should go to the Paulsboro Fire House.

National Transportation Safety Board inspectors have been staying away from the accident site until the hazardous material is removed.

As this incident continues to unfold, residents are encouraged to sign up for Gloucester County emergency alerts by visiting the county website. Also, any residents who have questions or who feel they have been affected by the derailment should call 1-800-230-7049 for assistance.

Officials have also set up two centers where people can go to make sure they are signed up for reverse 911 calls or to check on their status.

The locations are:

  • Paulsboro Fire House, 1502 Swedesboro Avenue, Paulsboro, NJ
  • East Greenwich Annex, 21 E. Cohawkin Rd. Clarksboro, NJ

    Several schools, preschools and daycare centers will be closed for the rest of this week as the cleanup of the derailed train cars continues:
    Tracy Day Care
    Head Start
    Guardian Angels
    Billingsport Early Childhood Center
    Paulsboro High School
    Loudenslager

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    The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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