Illinois train derailment sparks massive fire, forces home and school evacuations

A train derailed in southwestern Illinois Tuesday afternoon, sparking a huge fire that sent plumes of black smoke billowing into the air that could be seen in downtown St. Louis, and prompting the evacuation of nearby schools and residences.

Fox 2 reported that first responders were on the scene near Dupo, about eight miles south of St. Louis. Video showed more than 10 train cars derailed with flames shooting from the wreckage.

The St. Clair County Emergency Management Agency reported the train derailed about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. It posted a video of large plumes of black smoke coming from a fire.

In a separate statement, Union Pacific said the derailment occurred at around 12:45 p.m. in the Dupo rail yard.

"The train was being built for departure at the time of the derailment, which caused a tank car to catch fire. Initial information from the scene indicates that the tank car contains a flammable liquid called methyl isobutyl ketone. It is typically used as a solvent," the statement said.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Kristen South said the smoke from the fire does not pose a significant health hazard. But Dupo Police said as a precaution that students at a grade school, junior high school and high school were evacuated to a high school farther away. Police also said a few hundred residents of a mobile home park and a subdivision near the tracks have also been evacuated.

By about 3 p.m., officials said the fire had been extinguished and the people who were evacuated had been allowed to return to their homes.

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St. Clair County Emergency Management Director Herb Simmons said there were no injuries reported. An investigation into the derailment was continuing, including liquid leaking from some of the derailed cars, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.