Containment effort underway after train derails in upstate New York

Crews work to clear the site of a Norfolk Southern freight train derailment near Ripley in western New York state on March 2.

Story highlights

  • Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace: "This could have been catastrophic"
  • 16 cars derailed on the 34-car train, Norfolk Southern said
  • Some homes were evacuated due to leaking ethanol, governor says

(CNN)A train derailment in upstate New York has caused a hazardous spill, resulting in the evacuation of at least 45 homes near the town of Ripley, officials said.

The Norfolk Southern train derailed late Tuesday night, according to a statement from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
    Sixteen of its 34 cars derailed, and two of those were leaking ethanol, Norfolk Southern said.
    The leaks are under control, the company said. The punctures have been patched, and any remaining drips of ethanol are being captured in a bucket.
    Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said the cars -- holding more than 30,000 gallons of ethanol -- were leaking about a gallon a minute at one point.
    Firefighters work at the site of a 16-car Norfolk Southern freight train derailment that forced the evacuation of dozens of western New York homes after ethanol leaked from two tankers on March 2 in Ripley, N.Y. (Alice Waters/The Observer via AP)
    No injuries or fires were reported, but emergency responders were on the scene to contain the spill.
    "This could have been catastrophic," Gerace said.
    The sheriff added that about 30 people were in shelters after 45 homes were evacuated. Ripley is more than 400 miles northwest of New York City.
    Crews were clearing the tracks Wednesday, according to the sheriff.
    Cuomo said the main CSX line was open at reduced speeds.
    The cause of the derailment is under investigation, Norfolk Southern spokesman David Pidgeon said.
    He added that crews were working to transfer the ethanol off of the affected train cars and remove it from the scene.
    "We are also testing and removing impacted soil in the area," Pidgeon said.
    Gerace said crews were also trying to prevent the ethanol from leaking into the sewage system and a nearby lake.
    Ripley schools were closed Wednesday and residents near the derailment were asked to shelter in place, CNN affiliate WKBW-TV reported.