Residents in East Palestine, Ohio packed a high school gym Wednesday night hoping to get information after a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials derailed in the area earlier this month, prompting evacuations and health and environmental concerns.
According to The Hill, residents were expecting a representative from Norfolk Southern to answer their questions at the town hall meeting. But in a statement, Norfolk Southern said it would not send anyone to the meeting due to concerns about employees’ safety.
“Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties,” the railroad said in a statement to media hours before the meeting, according to WKBN 27
East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway during the meeting said that, like his constituents, he is demanding answers from the railroad company.
“Norfolk Southern didn’t show up. They didn’t feel it was safe. I’ve been outside all night. There’s a long line. This isn’t the way this is supposed to go,” he said.
“Why are they being hush-hush?” Kathy Dyke asked, referring to Norfolk Southern. “They’re not out here supporting, they’re not out here answering questions. For three days we didn’t even know what was on the train.”
“I have three grandbabies,” she said, according to The Associated Press. “Are they going to grow up here in five years and have cancer? So those are all factors that play on my mind.”
The Hill also reported that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inspectors are continuing to investigate what caused the freight train, with 20 cars with hazardous materials, to derail on Feb. 3.
Norfolk Southern said on Wednesday that it is “fully cooperating” with NTSB.
“We are fully cooperating with the NTSB’s investigation, but can’t share info until their report is released. We also are working closely with the people of East Palestine, Ohio, to support their needs now and to learn from them how we can help the community over the long term,” Norfolk Southern said in a statement.