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July 02, 2015

Thousands in Tenn. flee after train derailment

A freight train carrying flammable and toxic gas derailed and caught fire in Blount County, Tennessee, on Thursday, prompting the evacuation of more than 5,000 people, fire officials and rail company CSX Corp said.

Seven emergency workers were hospitalized after being exposed to chemical-laden fumes from the blaze, local officials said.

Specialists advised firefighters to let the fire burn itself out because attempts to extinguish it could be hazardous, Blount County firefighter Kermit Easterling said.

Residents within a two-mile radius were evacuated, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

Some schools were being used to shelter evacuated residents temporarily, Easterling said.

Local businesses were closed to limit workers' exposure to possibly toxic fumes, while a community college was being used as a command center, Easterling said.

The derailed car carried acrylonitrile, a product used in the manufacture of plastics, company spokeswoman Kristin Seay said in an email.

At least one car contained a highly flammable and toxic gas, according to a Blount County Sheriff's Office post on Facebook.

People would be evacuated for at least 24 to 48 hours, officials said.

The CSX train which was traveling from Cincinnati, Ohio to Waycross, Georgia, has two locomotives, 45 loaded rail cars carrying mixed freight, and 12 empty rail cars.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Vijaykumar Vedala in Bengaluru; Editing by Catherine Evans and Doina Chiacu)