Reports indicate that the incident occurred in the city of North Platte in the early afternoon hour of September 14, prompting an evacuation order for a four-mile radius around the city.
"Emergency evacuation for the area between splinter and front North of railroad track due fire at the railroad involving heavy toxic smoke," reads a social media post from the North Platte Volunteer Fire Department.
Later in the afternoon, North Platte VFD shared an update that the explosion occurred at approximately 12:10 pm, and was extinguished later that same evening.
The incident occurred at North Platte's Bailey Yard inside a stationary container aboard a railcar. The ignition of perchloric acid caused several nearby railcars to catch fire.
"No Union Pacific personnel were injured, and our employees have been safely evacuated," UP spokesperson Robynn Tysver told the North Platte Telegraph.
(Related: In the coming years, "cancer clusters" are expected to emerge all around East Palestine where earlier this year a freight train carrying vinyl chloride and other chemicals derailed and was intentionally blown up by authorities.)
In this incident, it was not a train derailment such as what occurred in East Palestine, Ohio, but rather a mysterious explosion that occurred for an unknown reason inside a car that "had been stationary in the yard for a couple hours."
Perchloric acid, by the way, is a hazardous material used not only in explosives but also in some processed foods, pharmaceutical drugs, and biocidal products. And investigation has ensued to determine the cause of the "accident."
An evacuation order was issued for all homes between Homestead and Front "due to wind and weather changing," which authorities feared would send the toxic plume that direction.
Authorities sent out an emergency SMS notification to all affected residents throughout the area notifying them about the evacuation order and which areas were being evacuated.
"North Platte-area first responders quickly shut down U.S. Highway 30 between Front and Splinter roads, between mile markers 170 and 172 and directly north of the explosion site in Bailey's west hump. U.S. 30 traffic was also being stopped at Buffalo Bill Avenue inside North Platte," the North Platte Telegraph further reported.
"Residents along that stretch of the highway and up to 1 mile north were evacuated after reports of 'heavy toxic smoke' coming from the yard, according to texts received from the city's emergency notification system."
The Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and State Recreation Area has been closed due to the explosion, as has the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center located just to the south of Bailey Yard.
The Nebraska Department of Transportation posted barricades in the late afternoon on Thursday both at West A and West Front streets along Lakeview Boulevard. U.S. 30 reopened for traffic at around 5pm.
"I just saw something and I looked and it was just a big ball of flame," said volunteer Gregg Robertson about what he saw of the explosion while speaking with someone inside the tower.
"And then it was just fire, fire, fire, constant for 10, 12 minutes maybe. And then the fire went down and smoke kind of increased, and then it was just sparks coming out."
According to Robertson, there were two smoke plumes that rose from the blast site: one to the east that looked like black smoke and one to the west that looked like orange smoke, "something like I've not seen from a fire," he commented.
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