Norfolk Southern sets up assistance center for people displaced by East Palestine train derailment

EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — Norfolk Southern set up a family assistance center at the East Palestine Park Community Center.

This is only for people evacuated, so they can get reimbursed for expenses such as hotels and meals.

Check out photos from the ground and in the air here >> Huge flames, heavy smoke billows from train derailment in East Palestine

Eric Cozza has been staying at a hotel with his three foster children since Friday night when the train derailed, sparking a massive fire — just two blocks away from his house.

He left behind pets and is concerned residents aren’t fully informed.

“Like the black smoke coming out of the train still. The shut-off valve that’s slowly releasing the chemical that is hazardous. EPA checking all the water, how far it went,” Cozza said.

Cozza is one of the thousands of residents evacuated who still can’t return home as officials continue to let the derailed train cars —some containing the hazardous chemical vinyl chloride — burn. Fire is still burning in East Palestine, Ohio, after 50 cars derailed Friday evening.

“We left in our pajamas basically,” Cozza said.

Other evacuees, like Shane and Lora Whitacre, didn’t want to file a claim.

“We have kids two dogs and a lizard. All at my mom’s,” Lora Whitacre said.

Instead they had questions for Norfolk Southern — about when they could go back into their home

“Okay, can I go back and get my boots? Can I get clothes for my kids? They have school, they have their laptops for school at home,” Shane Whitacre said.

It’s also too early to tell what led to the derailment. The NTSB says a preliminary report could be ready in 4-6 weeks. A full investigation could last up to two years.

People within a one-mile radius of the derailment are evacuated and anyone who has not evacuated the area is encouraged to stay inside their homes. Additionally, officials said outsiders should stay away from the village and people should keep off the roads to keep them clear for emergency vehicles.

The address of the center is East Palestine City Park, Recreation Hall, 31 Park Avenue, East Palestine, OH 44413.

The center will be open Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

A $25,000 donation to the American Red Cross has allowed the organization to set up several shelters throughout the community.

Channel 11 News has a crew working to learn more. Check back for updates.

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