Town Evacuated After Train Derailment

An overnight train derailed and its tanker cars exploded near the central Illinois town of Tiskilwa

Residents in Tiskilwa, a town in central Illinois, were evacuated early Friday after a freight train derailed overnight and its tanker cars exploded.

Fire officials told NBCChicago the cars were carrying ethanol and possibly other chemicals when the train derailed about 2 a.m. and the cars exploded. Residents said it sounded like bombs or a cannon going off.

The fire raged on for several hours and responding hazmat teams from seven area towns proceeded cautiously. The "denatured alcohol" in the cars could have caused further explosions, they said.

Most of the flames were struck shortly after 7 a.m. Responders disconnected the rest of the train and pulled it away. About 25 train cars were overturned from the derailment.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched a team to investigate the cause.

Tiskilwa, a town of about 800, is eight miles south of Princeton and about 115 miles west of Chicago.

The derailment happened on the east edge of town. Residents were taken to Princeton High School, where the Red Cross was on site.

Charles Lucas, who has lived in the town since 1940, said he didn't hear the first explosion. His daughter was on the phone with him at 4 a.m. to inform him of the evacuation.

"This is quite exciting. Nothing is really dangerous, I don't think ... but it could be," he said. "Thank God it was below town."

The fire could be seen from at miles away. No injuries were reported. 

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