Several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed in downtown and caught fire along the James River in Lynchburg, Va., leading to the evacuation of nearby buildings, but no injuries, city officials said.
The city on its website and Twitter posted that firefighters on the scene made the decision to let the fire burn out and urged motorists and pedestrians to avoid the area. It tweeted that the tanker cars were carrying crude oil and that three or four of them were breached. The city said 13 or 14 tanker cars were involved in the derailment.
Photos and video show several black tanker cars derailed and extensive flames and smoke.
The city said there was no impact on the drinking water for its 77,000 residents due to spillage into the James River. However, officials for the city of Richmond said its public utilities department is drawing from an old canal system instead of the James River as a precaution.
The train with about 15 cars was travelling from Chicago to Virginia when it derailed, CSX said in a statement. It did not say where the train was headed. The railroad operator said it is "responding fully, with emergency response personnel, safety and environmental experts, community support teams and other resources."
The National Transportation Safety said it is sending investigators to the scene.
The city said on in a news release on its website that CSX officials were working to remove the portion of the train that is blocking workers from leaving Griffin Pipe Foundry located in the lower basin.
"We're used to kind of bangs and booms," said Gerald McComas, a security officer at foundry up river from the derailment site. "My first thought was it sounded like one of the guys started a motorcycle and then a realized, wait a minute, no ... that was more of a boom. We walked outside and there was the smoke rolling in."
A portion of the train was blocking the road allowing workers at to leave their parking lot, McComas said. Instead workers were walking along the tracks to get to the other side of the train in order to leave their facility.
"I'm walking home tonight," McComas joked.
A phone message left by The Associated Press with the Lynchburg Police Department wasn't immediately returned.