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East Palestine residents shaken by train derailment evacuation order: 'I just want to be back home'

Residents evacuate after East Palestine train derailment
Residents evacuate after East Palestine train derailment 02:20

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (KDKA) - Residents near the East Palestine train derailment site say they are scared and just want this to all be over. Twenty-one people spent the night at an emergency shelter in Ohio on Sunday night, after the mandatory evacuation was issued.

Many have been there since Friday night. Failing to leave the one-mile radius evacuation zone could result in charges.

Hundreds of residents cannot go home as concerns grow over a potential explosion at the train derailment site in East Palestine, Ohio.

"I literally grabbed my wife and said, 'We're leaving!' And so, I had no intention of coming here. We fed our cats, we were worried about them, but we came here immediately, immediately because this stuff is serious," said Roger Walker, an East Palestine resident.

An urgent evacuation notice went out Sunday night for a one-mile radius from the crash site. Nearly two dozen people spent the night at the East Palestine school. The American Red Cross is running a 24-hour emergency shelter with food and cots.

"My wife packed a bag, but that's it. Just minimal, we had to get out," Walker added.

"It was not going regular smoke, it was like rolling and only thing I could think of was, 'man I've got to get out of here.' And five minutes later, the police knocked on my door and said, 'you got to get out,'" said Paul Cochran, who evacuated his home.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine says if an explosion were to occur, deadly shrapnel could reach as far as one mile. Many people made a tough decision to leave their pets behind. Now, they're terrified about what could happen.

"The American Red Cross people, they have been very helpful. They helped me get my medicine and took me home so I could feed my cat and stuff. I love that girl. She's 13 years old. I got to take care of her. I just wish this stuff would just be over with, I want to be back home," said Cochran.

The Abundant Life Fellowship Life Church is also serving as a family assistance center through Norfolk Southern to get people what resources they may need.  

East Palestine residents shaken by train derailment evacuation order, 'I just want to be back home' 03:32

It's a waiting game for the evacuees. Will their homes be safe? What comes next? Everyone still doesn't know.  

"I don't know what this will do for long-term damage to the ground to the water," said Nate Velez.

Even people who thought they were in the clear were told to leave. Katlyn Schwarzwalder lives just outside the one-mile radius but had firefighters and police say she needs to leave. Between 8:30 Sunday night and 5:30 Monday morning, she moved more than 20 dogs from their boarding and training facility with help from friends.  

"I think everybody in the community kind of band together from this, and we were able to make it work. Everyone is safe now," Schwarzwalder said.  

Then on Monday, she had to rescue horses from a farm near her Darlington Township, Beaver County home.  

"I think our biggest concern, especially with animals that can't talk to us, is these fumes," Schwarzwalder said over Zoom.  

Throughout the afternoon Monday, people went in and out of the family assistance center, trying to get help in making it through this situation.  

"It's a little bit stressful but we're going to get through it," Bowser said.  

Some from neighboring communities brought what they could to help neighbors left in the unknown.  

The school district in East Palestine says it will be closed for the rest of the week.  

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