It’s been two weeks since a train carrying hazardous chemicals derailed in northeastern Ohio, bursting into flames and spilling a flammable gas near a small town. Federal investigators are working to determine what caused the Feb. 3 derailment, which prompted evacuation orders and set off a public health scare.
Images showing a fireball and billowing smoke rising into the sky over decoupled rail cars have increasingly raised questions in recent days: Are the nation’s railways safe?
According to experts and federal rail incident data, such occurrences involving hazmat releases are rare. Industry-wide, derailments themselves aren’t uncommon, but most don’t result in injuries or environmental disasters. When a major incident occurs, however, it can take a significant toll on communities and take years to recover.