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Archive for Wednesday, August 1, 2001

Nation Briefs

August 1, 2001

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Iowa: Train derailment causes messy spill

Thirty-one rail cars derailed Tuesday afternoon, spilling corn and vegetable oil across the tracks and spurring a massive cleanup. No injuries were reported.

The train, which was leaving Des Moines, derailed about eight miles southeast of the city. John Bromley, a spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad, said the 86-car train was going to Kansas City when the cars left the track at 1:10 p.m.

He said the train was hauling "mixed-freight", including two cars filled with a corrosive material. They did not derail. The cars also spilled soybean meal, nut oil, and soybean oil.

Officials said clean-up equipment was being brought in from Des Moines, Kansas City and Minneapolis and workers planned to work through the night clearing the tracks. They were to begin rebuilding the tracks today.

Oregon: Allergy concerns bring balloon ban in hospitals

People who take latex "Get Well" balloons to sick friends and relatives in the hospital may have to check them at the front door because of concern over allergies.

"The latex allergy can be transported by air," said Janyce Lundstedt, safety director for Providence Health System, which banned latex balloons at its three Portland-area hospitals in June. For now, visitors can exchange them for Mylar balloons, made of metallic polyester film.

Because of allergic reactions among patients and hospital staff, Providence is also considering extending the rule to its other hospitals in Oregon, Washington, Alaska and California, Lundstedt said.

Symptoms of latex allergies can include skin rashes and asthma, and in some cases can cause death. Latex proteins can bind to the powder used to mold the balloons and spread in the air when a balloon is inflated or bursts.

Many hospitals also are phasing out the latex gloves that health care workers use.

Baltimore: Fire at chemical plant forces evacuations

Fire broke out Tuesday in a manufacturing plant that contains several chemicals, prompting the evacuation of a one-block area. No injuries were reported.

The fire burned for more than four hours before it was extinguished at 1:15 p.m., and about 60 residents who had been ordered to evacuate returned to their homes.

One worker, Chuck Harvey, told WJZ-TV there was a small explosion on the building's third floor. Employees tried to douse the fire with extinguishers, but the smoke was too heavy and they all evacuated, he said. Smoke was visible from two blocks away.

Fire department spokesman Hector Torres said the chemical sodium borohydride was burning inside the building. Other chemicals in the building did not catch fire, Torres said.

Sodium borohydride is used as a bleaching agent for wood pulp, and blowing agent for plastics, among other uses. Its fumes can cause coughing, shortness of breath, eye damage, dizziness and drowsiness.

Florida: Student pilot takes stolen plane to Cuba

A student pilot taking his first solo flight at a Florida airport Tuesday stole the plane and flew to Havana, bringing the Cessna to a rough landing on a rocky coastline. Witnesses said he walked away from the craft, apparently unharmed.

The pilot, John Reese, was taking a short test flight at Florida Keys Marathon Airport, according to Ed Steigerwald of Paradise Aviation in Marathon. Just before Reese was supposed to land the Cessna 172, he pulled up and headed south, Steigerwald said.

He brought the plane down on the rocks along the coast in eastern Havana some 140 miles from Marathon flipping over as he landed.

Witnesses said Reese was taken away by authorities.

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