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

aerial view of the stacked train cars

John and Lisa Hamner, residents of East Palestine, experienced the end of their way of life at 20:55 on February 3.

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

He spoke to the BBC while fighting back tears in the parking lot of his company, where the stench of chemicals and sulphur from the derailment is still very strong.

I want to get out of here at this point, he continued. "We're moving, I'm sorry. We are unable to continue. " .

Mr. Hamner attributes his red, swollen eyes to the physical aftereffects of the chemical spill in East Palestine.

However, he and his wife tell the BBC that their primary psychological and invisible wounds.

I'm getting so little sleep. I've already had two doctor visits, and I take anxiety medication," he said.

"Losing my job is bad enough, but this is ten times worse. We created this company. " .

The Hamners have lost business due to the crash
Due to the accident, the Hamners' trucking company has experienced business losses.

Mrs. Hamner claimed that, like her husband, she has had sleepless nights worrying about their company, their 10 employees, and the community in which she has lived for the past 20 years.

Numerous of their long-time clients have already canceled their collection services and declared their intention to leave East Palestine.

I'm worried about the residents here, she says. "Because there are so many issues, I don't know anyone who can sleep. Your friends' health, your business, and your own health are all involved. ".

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

It's not just him. Several East Palestine residents told the BBC over the course of two days that they view the derailment as a turning point in the town's history. Their lives will be judged by what happened before the 3 February disaster and what happened after, at least for the foreseeable future.

Residents have been urged by federal and local officials to drink bottled water. A few days after the derailment, the authorities declared it safe for people to return to the town, but environmental experts have expressed doubt.

The crash's chemical emissions, which also include butyl acrylate and vinyl chloride, can cause symptoms ranging from nausea to cancer with enough exposure.

"For this community, this is a 9/11 or a Pearl Harbor. One of those topics that comes up frequently, according to Ben Ratner, owner of a coffee shop.

In Mr. Ratner's case, he claimed that the stress and trauma had shown up as an "interesting mix" of feelings and physical symptoms.

He adds that the trains seem louder and more abrasive than they had in the past, and he now visibly bristles at the sound of them passing by, which was once routine.

He compared his friends' feelings of being constantly on high alert and easily panicking in East Palestine to post-traumatic stress.

He said, "We need to start considering the long-term emotional and psychological 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
Bottled water is being used by Ben Ratner.

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

He said, "This could go on for generations.". "It's much more than just gasses and the massive chemical cloud and plume. Although there are numerous family and social obligations, that stuff is serious. " .

Michael Regan, the EPA administrator, traveled to East Palestine on Thursday to oversee recovery efforts, meet with local leaders, and reassure the populace that the government is behind them.

He said, "We hear you, We see you, and We know why there is anxiety.

Additionally, JD Vance and Sherrod Brown, both senators from Ohio, sent messages of support to the neighborhood, and Mike DeWine, the governor of Ohio, asked the federal government for help.

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

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

Nearly a fortnight after the derailment, some people claimed they still hadn't heard from inspectors or authorities.

"No one has stopped by to inquire about anything. Nothing has been checked. Nothing," claimed Kim Hancock, who lives a little over a mile (1 point 6 kilometers) from the scene of the derailment.

There is no way they can tell me everything is safe, she said.

"I'm not a moron. I observed the smoke cloud as it passed over my home. ".

Joyce Liu produced and edited the video.

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