A report published this Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board stated that the driver was not notified of the failure until the last moment, when the accident was already inevitable. The incident has pitted Republicans and Democrats and has entered fully into the crossroads of political accusations.
The train with toxic components that derailed on February 3 in East Palestine, Ohio, suffered an overheating of a part that is used to reduce friction between the wheel and the axle. This is the conclusion reached by the report commissioned to investigate what has been one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent years in the United States.
Apparently, the driver and the team that were in command of the train that day did not receive any warning from the machine’s system until the last moment, when the accident was already inevitable. The engineer slowed down and stopped the train after receiving a “critical acoustic alarm message”, but it was not enough to prevent the train from derailing and spewing a multitude of toxic and carcinogenic components into the atmosphere, water and land that ignited.
“Surveillance video from a local residence showed what appeared to be a wheel bearing in the final stage of failure from overheating moments before the derailment,” the agency said in the statement. Despite the reduction in speed, the bearing continued to overheat, reaching 122 degrees Celsius at the time of the derailment.
No one died in the accident because it occurred in an area with a low population density, but despite this, thousands of families had to be evacuated due to the high risk posed by the toxic products spilled, especially due to their water contamination. .
The accident at the center of the political debate
Precisely, this same Thursday, February 23, the Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, visited East Palestine for the first time. His role in the accident has drawn widespread criticism from citizens and official agencies in the area and in the state of Ohio. Criticism has come especially for taking twenty days to reach the area and for authorizing the citizens of the area to return to their homes to lead a normal life.
The federal authority and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guaranteed safety in the area for its residents after verifying non-harmful levels of contamination, although they advised against drinking running water during the first days. However, several citizens have reported feeling nauseated, vomiting and dizzy as a result of the smell that still persists in the population.
Ohio Republican Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted also spoke about the report, saying it could be key in a future Ohio state lawsuit against the railroad company. Norfolk Southern. In addition, Husted, asked that the company take charge of relocating the affected families and even that it is obliged to buy their properties to compensate them.
“This is the responsibility of the railway, and it is up to government officials at the federal, state and local levels to hold them accountable and do right by the citizens of East Palestine,” he told US television. CNN. The governor of the neighboring state of Pennsylvania, Josh Shapiro, has already filed a criminal complaint against Norfolk Southern with the state attorney general’s office.
But what has sparked this accident is an impeachment war between Republicans and Democrats in recent weeks. Especially towards the government of Joe Biden, who is facing increasing criticism for the federal response to the derailment. In response to the criticism, the White House has defended its action, stating that officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the transportation safety board and other agencies were on the scene within hours of the derailment.
In addition, the Executive defends that it has also offered federal aid and that it has coordinated with the state emergency operations center and other partners. All this added to the announcement last Friday, after pressure from public opinion, to deploy a team of doctors and toxicologists to carry out public health tests in the affected area.
Donald Trump visited the affected area to campaign
Added to the criticism received was that of former President Donald Trump, who was in the area on February 22 to carry out an electoral campaign in his intention to compete again for the White House in 2024. Ohio is a key state in the Republican primaries and later in the presidential elections and, therefore, he was very critical of Joe Biden, whom he accused of “abandoning” the citizens of East Palestine.
His speech focused especially on the fact that three weeks after the accident the president had not gone to the area and was in Ukraine and Poland on the occasion of the anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine. His appearance also comes at a time when conspiracy theories are proliferating among far-right circles on social media and in a deeply conservative place.
Despite the criticism, however, his administration canceled a proposal by former President Barack Obama to require faster brakes on trains carrying highly flammable materials, intended to prevent derailments and explosions near communities, and scrapped regulations on rail safety. and dangerous chemicals.
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