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Train derailment: What's in the massive smoke plume?

Train derailment: A train crashed into a trash truck, derailed, and caught fire Tuesday in a Baltimore suburb, setting off an explosion that rattled homes and sent a plume of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles. Witnesses said they smelled chemicals, but officials said nothing toxic was released in the train derailment.

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A train derailment caused an explosion outside Baltimore this afternoon. A fire spokeswoman for Baltimore County says the train derailed about 2 p.m. Tuesday in White Marsh, Md.

Courtesy of Kevin Lindemann / AP

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A CSX freight train crashed into a trash truck, derailed, and caught fire Tuesday in a Baltimore suburb, setting off an explosion that rattled homes at least a half-mile (800 meters) away and sent a plume of smoke into the air that could be seen for miles.

In the third serious train derailment this month, the dozen or so rail cars, at least one carrying hazardous material, went off the tracks at about 2 p.m. in Rosedale, a suburb east of Baltimore. A hazardous materials team responded, but Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said at a news conference that no toxic inhalants were being released. Officials did not order an evacuation.

By nightfall, the hazmat team had left, meaning there was no more danger posed from the chemicals in the rail car, said Baltimore County police Capt. Bruce Schultz.

The truck driver, 50-year-old John J. Alban Jr., was in serious condition Tuesday night, a hospital spokeswoman said. Two CSX workers aboard weren't hurt.

Dale Walston said he lives about a half-mile away and that he thought he could smell chemicals.

"It shook my house pretty violently and knocked things off the shelves," he said in an email to The Associated Press.

Even hours after the blast, the thick plume of black smoke could be seen for miles and had drifted and covered the eastern part of Baltimore. Later, the smoke that was left had lightened considerably, changing from black to gray, though the fire wasn't yet extinguished as of 9 p.m.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said in an email that one of the cars was carrying sodium chlorate, which the Department of Transportation classifies as a hazardous material. However, Baltimore County Fire Chief John Hohman said the chemical was not in any of the cars that were still burning into the evening. The bleaching agent is used in making paper.

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