Trump makes campaign visit to site of Ohio train derailment

Washington, Feb 22 (EFE).- Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday made a campaign visit to the site in East Palestine, Ohio, affected by the derailment of a train carrying toxic chemicals.

The train of about 50 cars was transporting toxic materials in 11 cars and derailed on Feb. 3 as it was passing through East Palestine, a town of fewer than 5,000 residents located 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Pittsburgh and near Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania.

The train was carrying highly combustible materials, including vinyl chloride (a known carcinogen), and roughly 1,500 residents were evacuated amid fears of an explosion.

To avert a blast, authorities decided on a controlled burn of the chemicals, generating a towering toxic plume of smoke.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state officials and Norfolk Southern told the people of East Palestine it was safe to return to their homes after the controlled burn ended on Feb. 8, but residents have complained of rashes, burning eyes and respiratory problems.

Trump has spent days criticizing the Joe Biden administration’s handling of the derailment and has accused the Democratic government of abandoning the local residents in the small town in Ohio, one of the key states in any presidential election.

During his visit to East Palestine, the ex-president criticized Biden for traveling to Kyiv and Warsaw to mark the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine without first visiting the site of the derailment, which on Thursday – almost three weeks after the incident – will welcome the first high-level governmental delegation headed by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

The former president and now candidate for reelection has taken advantage of the controversy surrounding the accident in his campaign remarks and rallies at a time marked by conspiracy theories about the derailment spread by ultra-rightist groups on the social networks.

Nevertheless, when he led the country, his administration eliminated regulations regarding railroad safety and dangerous chemical substances.

The Republican Trump administration shelved a proposal by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, to demand better brakes in trains transporting highly flammable materials, a move designed to prevent derailments and explosions in or near the communities through which such trains might be passing.

In addition, Trump ended the periodic railroad safety audits and paralyzed a pending regulation demanding that cargo trains carry at least two crewmembers.

Trump also appointed a climate change denier, Scott Pruitt, to head the EPA during his mandate.

And the ex-president withdrew the US from the Paris agreement on climate change, ostensibly because he feared that following its rules and stipulations would harm US competitiveness with countries like China.

Last Friday, the Biden administration said that the federal government was preparing to send doctors and toxicologists to East Palestine to test for the presence of harmful substances after the Feb. 3 derailment.

“We are committed to supporting the people of (East) Palestine every step of the way and we are going to be on the ground helping them as long as it’s needed,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

EFE –/bp

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