TN families go home

BY RACHEL CLARK | KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | September 18, 2002

"The Cokesbury United Methodist Church offered to open the church as a welcome center."

—Patrick Fitzsimmons

The last of some 8,000 Knoxville, Tenn. evacuees went home Tuesday after emergency crews cleaned up a sulfuric acid leak from a derailed freight train.

A 141-car Norfolk Southern train bound for Birmingham, Ala., derailed Sunday morning.

Two locomotives and 22 cars left the tracks, including a tanker car carrying 10,600 gallons of sulfuric acid that began leaking noxious fumes.

About 20 subdivisions were evacuated, including the Knoxville suburb of Farragut and neighboring Blount County.

About 20 people -- most complaining of burning throats and skin -- were treated and released at local hospitals.

The cause of the accident was still under investigation.

The Salvation Army and the Cokesbury United Methodist Church stepped in to help evacuees. The American Red Cross was also offering assistance.

"The Cokesbury United Methodist Church offered to open the church as a welcome center," said Patrick Fitzsimmons, direct services administrator of the Knoxville area Red Cross.

The Bount Christian Church also offered to provide shelter for evacuees.

According to Church World Service (CWS), "the faith community often takes special interest in a technological disasters such as the spill of such toxic materials and the affects on the lives of persons directly affected. Special pastoral, spiritual,

and psychological needs are present because there is little or nothing survivors can do to clean up, their homes look unchanged, and yet there have been traumas associated with evacuation, warnings of health hazard, economic demands, the public nature of the disaster, and the opportunities for alleviating such events in the future."

A CWS disaster response and recovery liaison has begun assessing needs for assistance pertaining to spiritual care or long-term technological disaster-related recovery support issues.

The Salvation Army spent Sunday serving food and beverages to emergency personnel. By Monday, they were asked to be on standby in case their services were needed at the derailment site.

"The workers were very determined and very organized ... just extremely grateful to receive a helping hand," said Simon Henley, disaster services public information officer for The Salvation Army in Knoxville.

Henley said the local emergency personnel had camped at the command post in Knoxville all last week in preparation for a possible 9/11 terrorist attack.

"They were fairly weary for being down there, so it was fairly apt that we were there to help them," Henley said.

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