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Evacuees return home after freight train derailment

July 28, 2011 |  8:04 am


This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Residents of about 250 Antelope Valley homes who were forced to evacuate after a derailed freight train triggered fears of a hazardous material spill were allowed to return home early Thursday.

The evacuees, many of whom took refuge at a nearby school, received the green light about 2 a.m., said Inspector Matt Levesque of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

Sheriff’s deputies will continue to patrol the affected area, including a 2,000-foot evacuation corridor along the track in Littlerock where the derailment occurred, authorities said.

PHOTOS: Train derails near Palmdale

The evacuation came after 21 cars on a 68-car southbound Union Pacific train heading to Colton derailed about 1:25 p.m. Wednesday near Littlerock, southeast of Palmdale.

Fire authorities originally thought 14 of the derailed cars were tankers that typically carry hazardous materials, but Union Pacific officials said the train had only six such cars, and all of them were empty.

Levesque said concern was raised over residual materials that might still be in the tanks, so an evacuation was warranted.

“Even after they’re empty, they can still carry quite a bit of material left in the bottom,” Levesque said. “Small quantities can still cause some reason for concern.”

The process of uprighting the cars was still underway Thursday, and an investigation into the cause of the derailment was ongoing, authorities said.

For the record, 6:06 p.m. July 28: A previous version of this post included a photograph of a 2005 train derailment in San Bernardino. A photograph of the Littlerock derailment has replaced it.


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Photo: Crews work at the scene of a train derailment near Littlerock, southeast of Palmdale in the Antelope Valley. The train derailed Wednesday afternoon. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times