Skip to main content /US /US

Roads into Baltimore closed as chemical train burns

BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- Authorities closed all major roads into Baltimore late Wednesday after a freight train carrying hydrochloric acid caught fire in a tunnel near downtown.

Thick, black smoke poured out of the tunnel after the incident, which prompted officials to evacuate the city's baseball stadium and urge nearby residents to stay inside.

By 9 p.m., about six hours after the blaze began, authorities had ordered all major highways into the city closed to incoming traffic. Traffic was being rerouted around the city while firefighters battled a blaze that left a light gray haze over much of central Baltimore.

At least two firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze.

"We have to be concerned about each individual chemical and the possibility that several different chemicals may be involved," Baltimore Fire Battalion Chief Hector Torres said. "That causes major problems for us because we don't know what the characteristics of a mixture of those chemicals would do."

Map of incident site  

Eight cars of the CSX train carried hazardous materials, including hydrochloric acid and chemicals used in adhesives, de-icing and glass solvents, company spokesman Rob Gould said. Hydrochloric acid is a corrosive material that can cause eye, skin and respiratory irritation.

"Whether or not the hydrochloric acid or any of the other chemicals on board have leaked or have been involved in the fire remains to be seen," said John Vericco, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. "We can't tell that until the fire is under control enough that we can get our crews inside."

It was not known whether the train derailed inside the mile-long tunnel, which continued to produce smoke after 10 p.m. Complicating the problems for emergency crews, a water main beneath the tunnel burst while the fire continued to burn, flooding portions of downtown streets.

Police evacuated the area around the tunnel, including the baseball stadium at Camden Yards. The second game of a double-header between the Baltimore Orioles and the Texas Rangers was canceled, and will be rescheduled for Thursday, team officials said.

The incident took place shortly after 3 p.m. CSX Corp. spokeswoman Kathy Burns could not confirm the train had derailed in the tunnel, but she did say "an emergency brake application" took place.

In such an instance the crew is instructed to detach the locomotives and get away from the train, which they did, Burns said.

Gould said the cars carrying the hazardous material were near the middle and end of the train. Most of the fire appeared to be in the front of the train.

The city set off its civil defense sirens, and Torres said the fire department asked residents near the accident to stay inside to avoid contact with the fumes.

• Maryland Department of the Environment
• CSX Transportation
• CSX Corporation

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.


Back to the top