WHITE MARSH, Md. (AP) — An explosion after a cargo train derailed Tuesday in a Baltimore suburb rattled homes at least a half-mile away and collapsed nearby buildings, setting them on fire, officials and witnesses said.
The train went off the tracks at about 2 p.m. in White Marsh, about 10 miles northeast of Baltimore and a fire department spokeswoman said she did not know if there were any injuries. Hazmat teams were on the scene, Baltimore County Police and Fire said in a series of tweets.
Dale Walston said he lives about a half-mile away from the blast site and that the smell of chemicals is very strong.
"It shook my house pretty violently and knocked things off the shelves," he said in an email to The Associated Press.
A thick plume of black smoke was emerging from the scene and was visible for miles, the smoke drifting across the Baltimore city line and covering the eastern part of the city. It was visible to motorists heading north on Interstate 95, through downtown Baltimore.
Photos and video on TV stations showed at least three rail cars off the tracks. Overhead news shots show several blackened buildings and fires burning.
A worker at a nearby Dunkin Donuts, Tawan Rai, reached by The Associated Press by phone, said he saw a fire and flames by the railroad 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," said Rai, adding no windows broke but he was surprised by the intensity of the blast. "I went outside and people were rushing there, the police officers, fire trucks."
He also said he saw some ambulances arrive but didn't see anyone injured.
He also said police had apparently stopped traffic on nearby Pulaski Highway not far from the tracks and he no longer had any customers at his donut shop.
John Kane, treasurer of Atlantic Tire on nearby Pulaski Highway, said the explosion blew out two large showcase windows and light fixtures in his shop.
The derailment is the third serious one this month. In Bridgeport, Conn., on May 17, more than 70 people were injured when a commuter train derailed. The eastbound train from New York City went off the tracks during evening rush hour, came to a stop and was struck about 20 seconds later by a westbound train.
In Rockview, Mo., on Saturday, a cargo train crash injured seven people and destroyed a highway overpass that could take a year to repair.