Some 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid leaked from a rail car in St. James Parish after the train derailed Wednesday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Louisiana State Police/Facebook
Nov. 2 (UPI) -- Evacuations have been issued for a small Louisiana parish where thousands of gallons of hydrochloric acid were spilled as a result of a train derailment on Wednesday afternoon.
Local authorities and officials said six cars jumped the track in the unincorporated community of Paulina, located within St. James Parish, at about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday.
The cause of the train derailment was currently unknown, but officials said it caused a rip in one of the cars carrying some 20,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid, which is used in household cleaning products and for refining metals.
"I believe it would probably be safe to say that the whole entire rail car probably would have leaked out before it was able to be contained," Pete Dufresne, president of St. James Parish, which is home to fewer than 20,000 people south of Baton Rouge, told reporters Wednesday night in a briefing.
No injuries have been reported.
St. James Sheriff Willy Martin told reporters during an earlier press conference that first responders who arrived at the leak had difficulty "managing their way through" it, and began knocking on the doors of residences in close proximity ordering evacuations.
Some 150 people were ordered to leave their homes, authorities said before they expanded the evacuation zone Wednesday night.
An evacuation shelter has been established at the Lutcher Senior Center where evacuated residents were being put into contact with hotels for the night, St. James Parish said.
Dufresne said they hope the residents will be able to return home by Thursday afternoon, but that they are prepared to put them up for a second night, if needed.
The local sheriff's office said highways 642 and 44 in Paulina have been closed for about a half mile in both directions.
Louisiana State Police said its Hazardous Materials crew, railroad personnel and other law enforcement and local officials were on the scene.
"LSP expects road closures to remain in place, as this incident will likely be an extended cleanup," police said in a statement.
Martin said the last time there was a train derailment in the parish was in 1992, in Gramercy.