Flames and thick black smoke rose into the air after a train with tanker cars derailed in downtown Lynchburg in central Virginia on Wednesday afternoon.
Lynchburg police advised motorists to keep away from the area and for nearby businesses to evacuate. Photos from the scene showed several black tanker cars on their side alongside the railroad tracks, but authorities did not immediately say what was inside the containers.
The derailment was along the James River near the Depot Grille restaurant, according to witness accounts on social media.
Philip Wilmarth felt the heat from the fire on the sixth floor of a building a couple of hundred yards away. He told the Los Angeles Times that he didn’t hear an explosion, but he saw at least a handful of train cars off the tracks.
“The train had completely come off the tracks, and the fireball, it’s very large,” Wilmarth said. “They evacuated us out pretty quickly. My guess is something ruptured in the tanks, and they got sparks from cars hitting together.”
He said he couldn’t see the end of the train, but all of the cars he saw were exactly the same — black cylinders.
While waiting out on the street before being told to leave the area completely, other witnesses told Wilmarth that the explosion had blown the windows off Depot Grille.
Authorities did not immediately report any injuries.