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Chemical fire on derailed Belgian train kills one

07 May 2013

One person was killed and dozens injured after a freight train carrying chemicals derailed and caught fire near the town of Wetteren in northwest Belgium on May 5. The blaze led to a series of explosions in the railway cars and a fire spread over hundreds of metres, prompting authorities to evacuate residents living within 500 metres of the site of the accident.

On May 7, DPA said at least 93 people were listed as injured, with high levels of toxicity recorded nearby. Three of the victims were under intensive care and around 500 people were evacuated altogether.

The fatality was a 64-year-old man, who was found to have been "severely poisoned" in a nearby house alongside his dead dog.

The cause of the accident, which saw six tanker wagons from a 13-wagon freight train derail, remains unclear. The three that exploded contained the highly poisonous chemical acrylonitrile, among other products.

Firefighters decided to let the flames burn out as water could have released further toxic chemicals, and the blaze lasted for 16 hours. High toxicity in the surrounding environment meant clean-up plans are likely to be delayed until the end of the week, local sources said.

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