A freight train leaked molten sulfur early Monday after it derailed near Kathleen, Florida, Polk County Fire Rescue officials said.
Firefighters said they 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 to stay in their homes, Walter said. They were allowed to leave their homes by 9 a.m., he said.
Walter said that CSX and state officials continued on Monday to clean up the spillage, remove the damaged train cars and investigate the cause of the derailment.
Pat Purgason, who lives nearby, said he was awoken by the sound of the derailment.
"All of (the) sudden it (sounded) like a bomb went off," he said. "And I was like, 'Oh my word.'"
The train -- which included three locomotives, 120 loaded railcars and 72 empty railcars -- was traveling from Waycross, Georgia, to Winston, Florida, when nine of the railcars derailed, a CSX spokeswoman said.
"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 is expected to remain closed until Monday evening.
No one was injured.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.