A town in Ohio laments the chemical train derailment as "our Chernobyl."

view from above of the stacked train cars

At 20:55 on February 3rd, John and Lisa Hamner, residents of East Palestine, experienced the end of their pre-existing way of life.

On that particular day, a toxic train derailed just a few yards from their prosperous garbage truck business, which they had expanded in this small Ohio town over the course of 18 years, from five clients to more than 7,000.

He told the BBC while fighting back tears in the parking lot of his company, where the derailment's noxious chemical and sulphur odor still lingered.

He continued, "I'm at the point now where I want out of here. "We are going to move. We're at our limit now. " .

The physical effects of the chemicals that were spilled in East Palestine, according to Mr. Hamner, are still being felt in his eyes, which are red and swollen.

However, according to him and his wife, their primary psychological and unseen wounds.

I'm unable to sleep at all. I've already had two visits to the doctor, and I'm taking anxiety medication," he said.

"This is ten times worse than simply losing my job. Our company was built. " .

The Hamners have lost business due to the crash
The crash has caused the Hamners' trucking company to lose customers.

Like her husband, Mrs. Hamner claimed she has stayed awake at night worrying about their company, their ten employees, and the community in which she has lived for the past 20 years.

Already, a number of their long-time clients have canceled their collection services and declared they will be leaving East Palestine.

She expresses fear for the local residents. "There are so many issues going on that I don't know anyone who can sleep. It is your concern, as well as your health and the health of your friends. ".

Mr. Hamner compared the incident to "East Palestine's Chernobyl," a reference to an April 1986 nuclear accident in the then-Soviet Ukraine, while perched on a mound of dirt in view of the burned-out remnants of a number of railway cars from the derailment.

Not by himself. A number of locals in East Palestine told the BBC over the course of two days that they view the derailment as a turning point in the development of their community. Their lives will be judged by what occurred prior to the disaster on February 3 and what occurred afterwards, at least for the foreseeable future.

Residents have been urged to drink bottled water by federal and local officials. A few days after the derailment, the authorities declared it safe for residents to return to the town, despite concerns from environmental experts.

A sufficient amount of exposure to the chemicals released in the crash, which also include butyl acrylate and vinyl chloride, can cause symptoms ranging from nausea to cancer.

"This is a 9/11 or Pearl Harbor for this community. One of those topics that comes up constantly," said Ben Ratner, the owner of the coffee shop.

In the case of Mr. Ratner, he claimed that the stress and trauma had manifested as an "interesting mix" of feelings and sensations.

Adding that they seem louder and more abrasive than they had in the past, he now visibly twitches at the sound of the trains passing by that was once commonplace.

He compared his descriptions of his friends' current state of constant alertness and ease with which they panic to those of post-traumatic stress disorder.

He stated, "We need to start considering the emotional and psychological long-term impact.".

"People worry when they hear trains, or when they imagine their children going outside, or when they let their dog out and it unintentionally drinks contaminated water. It's serious. ".

Mr Ratner is using bottled water to clean dishes because he doesn't trust the tap
Using bottled water is Ben Ratner.

Mr. Ratner continued, saying that after years of Covid-19 disruptions, local children now have to deal with another traumatic event upending their lives.

He stated that "this situation could last for generations.". There is much more to it than just the large chemical cloud and gaseous plume. There are many family and social obligations in addition to that serious matter. " .

Michael Regan, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), went to East Palestine on Thursday to supervise the recovery efforts, meet with local leaders, and reassure the locals that the government is behind them.

He remarked, "We see you, we hear you, and we comprehend why there is anxiety.

Additionally, Ohio's two senators, JD Vance and Sherrod Brown, sent messages of support to the neighborhood, and Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio asked the federal government for help.

In a letter, Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw acknowledged that locals are worn out, anxious, and left with "questions without answers." Norfolk Southern was the company that ran the derailed train.

Some locals think there isn't much that can be done to dispel the anger and distrust that still loom over the community.

Nearly a week after the derailment, several people reported that they had not heard from inspectors or officials.

Nobody has stopped by to ask us any questions. No one has performed any checks. Kim Hancock, who lives just over a mile (1.06 km) from the derailment site, said "Nothing,".

She questioned how they could possibly assure her that everything was secure.

"I'm not naive. As the smoke cloud approached my house, I watched it. ".

Joyce Liu created the video and edited it.

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