Monday, November 03, 2008
A&E "I Survived" episode describes massive chlorine leak from Texas derailment in 2004
The “I Survived” segment on A&E tonight (Nov. 3) traced what can happen after a train derailment with chlorine gas. Two of the survivors were an elderly couple near San Antonio Texas near a massive derailment in late June 2004. A typical news story of the event is here. The A&E stories are supposed to be at Bio.com, although I couldn’t find this yet.
The couple survived over seven hours, not able to escape the cloud of chlorine because of muddy conditions and road blockage. Inside the house, stainless steel fixtures gradually disintegrated. The couples stay in the house for much of the time recalls last year's film "Right At Your Door." Emergency was not able to get to them, and actually threatened to arrest a relative volunteer fireman who said he could get to them. The 911 operator at one point told them to shower, which was wrong advice because the chlorine converted to hydrochloric acid, causing chemical burns. The inability of emergency services to perform their job seemed unbelievable. The couple eventually settled out of court with the Union Pacific Railroad.
The US Army uses chlorine gas in training recruits for chemical warfare with protective masks (which actually work very well), although in my own Army Basic we had “just” tear gas.
Major cities, including Washington DC, have been taking action to force trains carrying hazardous chemicals to bypass populated areas or tunnels. The transportation of extremely hazardous materials (including radioactive) is one of our most important homeland security issues and “mega-disaster” scenarios.
There was a somewhat similar catastrophe in South Carolina in January 2005, link here.
The “I survived” segment also covered two crime stories. A woman, driving alone on a freeway at night in Idaho is cut off, carjacked and left for dead by methamphetamine addicts. She is rescued by two teenage boys who see her car on fire. The four suspects are caught, and three get life sentences. However, carjackings and crimes of gross brutality have increased in the past eight or so years, to amount to acts of domestic terrorism.
In Kentucky, a young couple leaves a party and walks along railroad tracks and is attacked by a serial killer. Only the woman survives. The perpetrator is apprehended for a crime in Texas.
The film featured the victims and survivors talking to the camera, and mostly just stills of the scenes of the incidents.