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22-car derailment cuts off road to homes

Published: Oct. 31, 2020 at 12:44 AM EDT
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ROANOKE Co., Va. (WDBJ) - UPDATE: A Norfolk Southern bridge collapsed Friday night, causing a train carrying coal to derail, according to Roanoke County spokeswoman Amy Whittaker. Norfolk Southern has updated its official count to 22 cars that were involved.

Roanoke County released a statement Saturday that further details the response to the incident:

"The Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) and Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) responded to the initial incident and have been coordinating with NSC on the removal of the rail cars and coal from the Roanoke River. Any environmental impacts from the coal are expected to be largely physical in nature. However, DEQ is coordinating with local, state and federal agencies and Norfolk Southern to collect samples to determine whether there have been any impacts to water quality.

"The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is working closely with the City of Salem Water Treatment Plant to ensure drinking water service is not disrupted. Out of an abundance of caution, Salem is currently withdrawing water from groundwater wells and not the Roanoke River until the water samples from the river can be collected and analyzed. The City has sufficient back-up water resources and no disruptions to service are anticipated.

“The Emergency Managers from Roanoke County and the City of Salem are also working with Norfolk Southern to ensure the safety of citizens as response efforts continue.”

UPDATE: Norfolk Southern says 26 rail cars were on their way to Norfolk from Weller, carrying coal. No hazardous substances were a part of the derailment.

“We’re used to trains going by, but this one was different. It sounded like it was going straight through the bedroom," said Haley Cook.

Cook and her husband live on the part of Barley Dr. that was cut off by the derailment.

“The house started to shake and it was just super loud so we both jumped up trying to figure out what was going on," Cook said.

Norfolk Southern says 26 cars derailed carrying coal from Weller to Norfolk. No one was hurt and no hazardous materials were involved.

The train bridge over Barley Dr. collapsed, blocking the only road in and out to their home and a handful of other families.

“If they build it again it’ll be a lot newer and maybe engineered well so maybe be less worrisome than what it was looking like before; just an old rickety bridge beforehand," said Cook’s husband Jesse.

Both say they would not be worried about driving under the bridge if a new one is built.

“Hopefully it would never happen again," Cook said.

The cause of the incident is still being looked into.

EARLIER: A train derailed along Barley Drive overnight near the Roanoke County-Salem City line, according to Roanoke County emergency officials.

The railroad bridge over Barley Drive collapsed, dumping multiple rail cars into the road and Roanoke River.

Norfolk Southern and contractor crews are on scene. A hazmat crew has come and gone.

The train seems to have been carrying coal.

This story is still developing.

Stay with WDBJ7 for updates.

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