Video: Fiery Train Derailment Leads to Evacuation of Illinois Town

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ABC TV / AP

This frame grab provided by ABC TV, Chicago, shows a freight train in flames Friday, Oct. 7, 2011, in Tiskilwa, Ill.

A freight train carrying ethanol jumped the tracks in northern Illinois, causing a nearly half-mile-long explosion and prompting the evacuation of the town’s 800 residents.

The train crashed at about 2 a.m. Friday morning on the outskirts of Tiskilwa, Ill., WLS reports, when 26 cars on the 131-car train derailed. At least six of them were carrying highly flammable ethanol, quickly triggering explosions through the wreckage. The cars exploded one-by-one, shocking the residents of the small town about 125 miles southwest of Chicago.

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Many of Tiskilwa’s 800 residents were jarred awake by the blasts and watched the flames shoot into the darkness. Around 2:30 a.m. police began asking residents to leave, setting up the nearby Princeton High School as a shelter. Les Grant, a spokesman for Bureau County Emergency Management, told the Associated Press that the evacuation was voluntary, as there was no immediate danger, but many residents chose to leave town of their own volition after hearing the explosions.

The fire’s glow could be seen for miles as the sun rose. By mid-morning, the blaze was under control and no injuries were reported, but residents remained far from their homes as the train’s shell smoldered.

Investigators have not yet been able to get close enough to the burning train to determine the cause of the crash. But they say there will be no lasting hazards to after the ethanol burns off.

Nick Carbone is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @nickcarbone. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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