A CSX freight train leaked several thousand gallons of molten sulfur early Monday after it derailed near Kathleen, Polk County Fire Rescue said.
Firefighters were returning from a medical call shortly after 1:45 a.m. when they found several overturned, mangled train cars at Kathleen and Strickland roads, PCFR spokesman Kevin Walter said.
"A small fire was extinguished by firefighters," Walter said. "Following the incident, crews went door-to-door to notify residents on Strickland Road about the shelter in place order."
Residents were asked to close their windows, shut off their air conditioners and stay in their homes, Walter said. They were allowed to leave their homes by 9 a.m., he said.
Watch footage of the scene below:
Walter said CSX and state officials cleaned up most of the spill as they worked to remove the damaged train cars and investigate the cause of the derailment.
Officials said after developing a remediation plan that was approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, specialists began removing the products from the ground and they will continue working through the night until the site is fully restored.
Pat Purgason, who lives nearby, said he was awakened by the sound of the derailment.
"All of a sudden it sound(ed) like a bomb went off," he said. "And I was like, 'Oh my word.'"
The train -- which included three locomotives, 120 loaded rail cars and 72 empty rail cars -- was traveling from Waycross, Georgia, to Winston, Florida, when nine of the rail cars derailed, a CSX spokeswoman said.
Watch aerial footage of the scene below:
"A preliminary assessment indicates that four of those cars contained molten (sulfur), a hazardous material used in making rubber, detergent and fertilizers," the spokeswoman said. "Several were reported to be leaking."
The train was also carrying cardboard, oats and rock, she said.
Molten sulfur is also used in sulfuric acid production, petroleum refining, and pulp and paper manufacturing, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.
The chemical, which has a faint odor of rotten eggs, causes thermal burns to skin upon contact and may cause irritation to the skin, eyes and mucous membranes, NOAA said.
Kathleen Road at Strickland Road and from Youngs Ridge Road to Spivey Road was expected to remain closed until Tuesday morning.
No one was injured.
Cox Media Group