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Crews Continue Cleanup Of Train Derailment, Chemical Spill In Lakeland

A train hauling molten sulfur  derailed in Lakeland early Monday morning, but officials now say the imminent danger appears to be over.

Polk County Fire Rescue public information officer Kevin Watler said rescue crews discovered the train derailment while returning to their station from a prior medical call. 

As of 10:30 a.m., residents in the Kathleen area were allowed to leave their homes after being asked to shelter inside while crews battled a small fire.

"With this type of fire that came from this type of chemical, you have to be extremely careful to not breathe the air because it can be very very harmful to your body," Watler said.

Watler asked Lakeland residents to continue to stay away from the derailment site.

"The less people around, the better it is for the cleanup crews and if there is a chance of anything else occurring," he said.

The train company CSX and state officials are now in charge of finishing the chemical clean up, which could take days. The stretch of Kathleen Road/Strickland Road near the derailment is expected to open later this afternoon or early this evening.

CSX officials said in a statement that the cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

"CSX’s first priority is to protect the residents of Lakeland, Fla., while we work to restore the scene of this incident," the statement read.

Molten sulfur is used in making sulfuric acid, rubber, detergents, fungicides and fertilizers. The chemical can cause skin and eye irritation, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Roberto Roldan is a senior at the University of South Florida pursuing a degree in mass communications and a minor in international studies.
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