Southern California Residents Evacuated After Train Derails, Releases Toxic Cloud

A freight train derailed in the Southern California desert and two tanker cars full of chemicals caught fire, sending up a cloud of fumes and forcing home evacuations, authorities said.

No one was injured when 28 of the Union Pacific train's cars derailed Monday night about 140 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

About 60 residents in nearby homes were evacuated because of potentially hazardous fumes, fire officials said.

One of the burning tanker cars contains hydrochloric acid, fire and railroad officials said. Hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive and can cause burns if it comes into direct contact with skin or eyes. It is used in the production of fertilizers and dyes, and in photographic, textile and rubber industries.

The other tanker ablaze contains phosphoric acid, which is milder and used for rust removal and for the preparation of steel surfaces for painting.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation, said James Barnes, director of media information for Union Pacific.

Authorities have set up a one-mile radius around the accident site and no one is being let inside because of the fumes, Riverside County Fire Capt. Julie Hutchinson said.

"We plan to go in and take a look as soon as we can get some sunlight on it," Hutchinson said.

Barnes said the 65-car train was on an intrastate route, heading from West Colton to El Centro.

The accident site is next to Highway 111, which has been shut down for a seven-mile stretch south of State Road 195.