Evacuation Lifted in Kentucky After Acid Leak

Residents in this far western Kentucky town returned to their homes Friday morning after being evacuated the day before when a railroad tanker spilled hydrochloric acid.

The evacuation order was lifted at 6 a.m. CDT, said Paul Maxwell, emergency management spokesman in Fulton.

Hazmat teams were still removing the chemical from the tanker, Maxwell said, but the leak had been contained.

The evacuation Thursday stretched up to three-quarters of a mile from the rail yard, officials said. Between 150 and 200 homes were evacuated, along with two schools, and shelters were set up at two area churches, said Fulton City Manager Kenney Etherton.

Two people complaining of headaches and a burning sensation in their nose and throat were treated and released from Parkway Regional Hospital in Fulton, said chief nursing officer Libby Larkins.

Jim Kvedaras, a spokesman for Canadian National Railroad, which owns the train, said it appeared the inner liner of the tanker failed, allowing the chemical to eat through the outer shell of the car.

At the First United Methodist Church in Fulton, about 50 miles south of Paducah, two dozen residents gathered around tables in the church basement for a dinner of spaghetti, cold meat sandwiches and hot dogs.

Residents who had gathered there were in a jovial mood.

"I want to go home. There's no place like home," said Elaine Forrester, a city commissioner whose home was among those evacuated. "We just wish we had some cards or games to play."

City emergency management officials said the tanker originally contained 187,000 pounds of hydrochloric acid. It was unclear how much had leaked.

The evacuation included Fulton High School and Carr Elementary, Etherton said. Students were taken to a high school just across the border in South Fulton, Tenn., and later were transported to a Baptist church.

A Fulton seed company with several dozen employees also was evacuated, Etherton said.

Police were alerted of the leak shortly before noon Thursday. Nearly a dozen agencies responded to the incident.

Hydrochloric acid is a highly corrosive liquid and can cause burns if it comes into direct contact with skin or eyes.