US & Canada

Explosion after cargo train derailment in Maryland

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Media captionThe incident is the third major rail crash in the US in two weeks

A cargo train carrying chemicals in the US state of Maryland has hit a lorry and derailed, causing a blast felt half a mile away.

The train derailed shortly after 14:00 EST (18:00 GMT) near Baltimore. A fire sent a thick plume of dark smoke from the wreckage.

The driver of the lorry was brought to hospital in serious condition.

Officials have said no toxic inhalants were burning on the train and that there would be no mandatory evacuation.

It was the third major rail crash in the US in the past two weeks.

Broken windows

Image caption Multiple witnesses said a fire was followed by an forceful explosion

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told the BBC that 15 of the train's carriages had derailed.

"The force of the explosion... reached about 300 yards," Mr Kamenetz said. "It must have been a massive explosion. We're just thankful no lives were lost."

A spokesman for the CSX cargo company said sodium chlorate, classified by the US transportation department as hazardous material, was on the train.

But Baltimore County Fire Chief John Hohman said sodium chlorate was not in any of the train cars that set on fire.

The county's public safety office tweeted that fluorosilicic acid and terephthalic acid were in those cars.

Tawan Rai, who was working nearby, told the the Associated Press he saw a fire by the tracks at first, then felt a thundering blast that sent smoke pouring into the sky.

"The whole building shook and there was just dust everywhere," Mr Rai said.

Other nearby residents said large windows and light fixtures were broken and items were knocked off shelves by the force of the blast.

Kevin Lindemann, a salesman for an industrial pipe supplier near the tracks, said he and about 10 colleagues felt the ground shake and saw flames he estimated were 50ft (15m) high.

Image caption Nearby residents were offered shelter if they wanted to voluntarily evacuate, but officials were not ordering any mandatory evacuations

Mr Lindemann and his colleagues left the building quickly: "You could feel the heat as soon as you walked out the door."

Then they heard the explosion, five to 10 minutes after the derailment, he said.

"Even like three blocks away, it was loud," he said. "I mean, it just about took you to your knees."