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Chlorine Cloud Leaking From Train

Aired August 14, 2002 - 12:11   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get back to the breaking news out of Festus, Missouri, where a chlorine cloud is leaking from a train, causing evacuations. We have Captain Chris Pigg on the phone with us. He is with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department out there in Missouri. Captain Pigg, can you tell us what exactly is the situation? Is this chlorine now, have you confirmed, leaking out of this train?
CPT. CHRIS PIGG, JEFFERSON COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT.: Yes, at about 9:30 this morning, workers were unloading about 180,000 pound tank filled with chlorine at their plant when a hose ruptured. They estimate there is about 80,000 pounds of chlorine left on the tank that is still leaking. We've evacuated some residences nearby by there. We'd had about 50 people that have been infected one way or another health wise, difficulty breathing, things like that, and one worker was taken to the hospital.

LIN: The train pulling up to what we thought was an abandoned chemical plant, but you're saying that chemical plant is still active.

PIGG: The chemical plants is still active. They sell to retailers. They get bulk chemicals and break it down it smaller pieces so they can sell it out.

LIN: Is the chlorine gas lethal?

PIGG: Yes, it is. That's why we have done our evacuations, and our hazmat team will suit up and try to shut the tank car off to stop the leak.

LIN: How dangerous is that for the workers that are going to have to do that?

PIGG: It is very dangerous. That's why we have to wait for the hazmat to wear a level one or level A suit that's fully encapsulated so that chlorine does not come in contact with any part of their skin.

LIN: How many people live in that area?

PIGG: It's not heavily populated, but there is a mobile home community right there next door to the plant. There's probably in the neighborhood of 300 to 500 people living right near there.

LIN: How many of them have been evacuated? All of them?

PIGG: That entire community has been evacuated, and firefighters are now in there with the self-contained breathing apparatus, trying to make sure that we have everyone out.

LIN: And did you mention the number injuries? You said a number of people have experienced breathing problems, but I'm just wondering how many, and how serious are those injuries?

PIGG: Right now, it's -- we're estimating at around 50. We're not 100 percent for sure. We haven't been able to check with the hospital to find out just how many people went on their own, but nothing real serious, some breathing difficulties, maybe some headaches, things like that.

LIN: Any idea how the leak started? Was it a mistake by the workers who were unloading the chemicals?

PIGG: Apparently, from what we know at this time, is a hose ruptured, which caused the leak.

LIN: All right. Well things happen. Thank you very much, Captain Chris Pigg from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department out there. That is the latest from Festus, Missouri. Several hundred people evacuated from the neighborhood, a mobile home park nearby, and several people, about 50 people now being treated for inhalation injuries from that chlorine gas cloud, which clearly can be lethal.

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