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Residents flee as US train derails

About 100 homes have been evacuated after a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in the US.

More than 20 carriages went off the tracks about 3.30pm local time on Sunday near Lawtell, about 60 miles west of Baton Rouge in Louisiana.

Two carriages of the Union Pacific train were leaking and company spokeswoman Raquel Espinoza saids one of them was leaking sodium hydroxide, which can cause injuries or death if it is inhaled or touches the skin. The other was leaking oil.

Master Trooper Scott Moreau said the amount leaking was so small air pollution detectors had not picked up anything. One person went to hospital complaining of eye irritation.

State governor Bobby Jindal flew into St Landry Parish. He said: "Any time you have chemicals leaking into the environment, that's a serious issue. Nobody knows the extent of the damage. We'll get that in the next 24 hours."

Another damaged car was carrying vinyl chloride, Ms Espinoza said, but it was not leaking. Vinyl chloride is extremely flammable.

There were two people on the train, an engineer and a conductor, who were not hurt. Ms Espinoza said a man who was near the derailment initially did not want to go to the hospital in an ambulance, but decided later to get checked for a burning sensation in his eyes.

The rail company does not know what caused the derailment. Ms Espinoza said the railway ties were renewed in 2011 and the track was inspected about three hours before the accident.

The track runs parallel to US Highway 190, which state police said would be closed for at least two days. Traffic was also being diverted from the evacuation zone.

St Landry Parish president Bill Fontenot said evacuated residents could go to a theatre owned by the local authority if they needed a place to stay.

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