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150 evacuated after train car carrying 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid derails in Paulina

Homes in Paulina are being evacuated and roads are closing while a hazmat team responds to the incident.

ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — About 150 residents of the Paulina community in St. James were evacuated after a train car carrying 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid derailed and punctured, creating a leak of the chemical.

St. James Parish Sheriff Wily Martin said the incident occurred around 1:45 p.m. Wednesday near Perry Road and Bourgeois Road. In all, six cars derailed. Officials said they aren't certain yet of the cause of the derailment. 

There are believed to be no injuries and those evacuated were taken to the Lutcher Senior Center.

“We have folks out of the way,” said Martin. “We may have to do more if the wind shifts.” Martin told The Advocate that deputies were having to cover their mouths due to the fumes as they went door-to-door in an effort to get people to leave.

State Police said that while the leak is isolated to a single car, there’s a large rip in the car so “there is no real way to contain it.” State Police were asking the public for patience as a spokesperson said a resolution could take some time. 

Martin said that teams were coming to offload a large amount of the acid so that it doesn’t all leak out. Hydrochloric acid is an irritant that can irritate the lungs and throat of those who inhale it.

Highway 642 is closed in the area and Highway 44 is closed for about a half a mile in each direction at the scene.

St. James Parish sent a press release stating that Highway 44 was completely shut down from LA 3193 to 3214 in Convent except for local traffic, who can go to their residence from 3193 in Lutcher to Antioch to Paulina.

The release also said that locals can get to their houses from Hester to 3214. They advise that those who live near ADM to Carlos Bar in Paulina on 44, as well as those who live north of the railroad track on 642 to Snyder Road, should evacuate and go to the Lutcher senior center.

"If you have elderly families who does not have social media please contact them and get them to evacuate. If you cannot make arrangements to evacuate, please call (225) 562-2200 so arrangements can be made," the press release said.

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