Derailment of train containing hazardous materials causes no spillage, no injuries

Peretz: This is a warning sign about the transport of chemicals near residential communities.

train 521 (photo credit: Reuters)
train 521
(photo credit: Reuters)
After a freight train containing hazardous chemicals derailed overnight between Monday and Tuesday, authorities maintained that no spillage or injuries had occurred.
The train, which derailed around 1 a.m. near Kiryat Gat, was carrying containers of bromide and of potassium nitrate – a fertilizer – according to Environmental Protection Ministry Southern District Manager Guy Samet.
While the bromide tanks remained on the tracks during the derailment, the potassium nitrate containers fell without spillage, both Samet and Israel Railways said.
Despite media reports that the derailment was caused by a herd of cattle crossing the rail tracks, Israel Railways maintained that it was too early in the investigation to determine the cause of the incident.
The containers, called “iso tanks,” are built according to International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards.
As of 9:40 a.m. Tuesday, Israel Railways had updated its website, reporting the temporary closure of a section of the railway between Kiryat Gat and Beersheba, but made no mention of the reason for the closure. Stressing that all other trains in the country are operating normally, the public service announcement said that the Tel Aviv-to-Beersheba train lines will start and finish their journeys at Kiryat Gat.
Responding to a query from The Jerusalem Post, however, a spokesman for Israel Railways confirmed that the chemicals were in fact aboard the train, but that there was no leakage of hazardous materials whatsoever.
Shuttle buses were provided for passengers, and Israel Railways teams were working to repair the track, the spokesman said.
The Environmental Protection Ministry was informed about the situation overnight when it occurred. The ministry immediately instructed investigative and monitoring teams to remain in the area until the evacuation of the containers concluded.
Although the freight train was carrying much more bromide than potassium nitrate – with bromide the much more hazardous of the two – the only containers to fall were those of potassium nitrate, and no leakage occurred, Samet said.
With the city of Kiryat Gat only 2 km. away, if the bromide had fallen and spilled, officials would be facing an entirely different scenario, he explained.
“If the bromide had fallen and the tank been damaged, we would have had an accident that infected the citizens of Kiryat Gat,” Samet told the Post on Tuesday afternoon.
Samet said that he and his team members performed an investigative exercise, concluding that if one iso tank had spilled, areas up to 4 km. away would have been infected.
“We have been lucky, but in any case, the bromide tank is more strongly structured, so we think that even it there had been an accident, nothing would have happened to the iso tank,” he said.
This assumption had not been confirmed by mid-afternoon Tuesday, however, Samet acknowledged, as the Environment Ministry’s investigation, in conjunction the Transportation Ministry, was still ongoing, he said.
Although no damage occurred during the derailment, Peretz warned that the event should be seen as a cautionary sign.
“The event [Tuesday morning] is a warning sign for the construction of a railway route from Eilat that is supposed to transport hazardous materials in the future, within cities and near communities,” Peretz said.
“This is a grave signal that the approach toward transporting hazardous materials must change dramatically,” he said.