Ohio train derailment: Trump criticizes federal response

East Palestine, Ohio –

President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized the federal government’s response to a toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, as a “betrayal.”

The former president, who is set to run for the White House for a third time, donned his trademark red “Make America Great Again” cap and said his community needed “answers and consequences,” not excuses.

“Too often your conscience and patience have been met with indifference and betrayal,” Trump said, walking about 800 meters from where more than 30 freight cars, including 11 carrying dangerous goods, derailed. Spoke at the fire station. The blazing chaos near the Pennsylvania border appears to have followed mechanical problems with railcar axles.

Trump appeared with Senator JD Vance, Republican Ohio Mayor Trent Conaway, and state and local leaders as they traveled through a motorcade and what looked like an official visit from the president.

The February 3 derailment resulted in evacuations and fears of air and water contamination after the controlled combustion of toxic chemicals intended to prevent explosions. The disaster has become the latest front in America’s political division, with Trump criticizing the federal response and the White House saying Trump could have done more as president to tighten railroad and environmental regulations. rice field.

The visit reminds Trump, who has held few events since he began his campaign in November, of his frequent visits as president to survey disaster damage and meet with residents after tragic events. provided the opportunity to reprise the role. He praised and criticized the staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He also donated cleaning supplies to residents worried about the water coming out of their faucets, along with what he said was a Trump-brand bottle of water.

Before leaving town, Trump stopped at a local McDonald’s where he handed out hats, ordered food from first responders, and picked up food for the flight home. Visited to inspect the damage and greeted supporters gathered nearby to cheer him on.

“Thank you for not forgetting us,” one woman said to him.

“Have fun, everyone,” Trump told them after signing autographs.

In remarks at the fire station, Trump acknowledged Biden’s decision to make a surprise visit to Ukraine this week, saying that when Biden returns, there will be “some money left over for the residents of East Palestine.” ‘I hope so. Biden, who has yet to be in town in Ohio, returned from Poland on Wednesday after celebrating the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden’s White House defended its response to the derailment, saying officials from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies arrived at the local scene within hours of the derailment. The White House is also providing federal assistance, and said FEMA is coordinating with state emergency operations centers and other partners.

EPA Administrator Michael Regan visited the site last week to try and reassure skeptical residents that the water was drinkable and the air was safe to breathe. And just before Trump arrived in Ohio, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced he would visit on Thursday after facing criticism for not coming sooner.

Trump praised Buttigieg’s visit, accusing FEMA of a “change in attitude” after announcing his visit to East Palestine and criticizing FEMA’s role in the response.

But the White House says FEMA was involved from the beginning, even as other agencies took the lead. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, a Republican, said Ohio received all the resources it needs from the federal government.

DeWine and FEMA announced that FEMA would place additional federal resources at the site on the same day Trump’s visit was announced, but the timing appears to be a coincidence. Federal and state officials also said railroad company Norfolk Southern will pay in full for cleaning and other costs, such as hotel stays.

Biden administration officials have said the Trump administration will repeal Obama-era Transportation Department rules requiring more sophisticated equipment for “high-risk” freight trains carrying large volumes of flammable liquids such as crude oil and ethanol. called for a decision. Electronically controlled brakes by 2023.

Buttigieg said this week that the Federal Railroad Administration would consider reinstatement of its brake rules, but the NTSB said the train was not considered a “very dangerous flammable train” and therefore did not help with the derailment. Stated. Of the 20 dangerous goods vehicles the train was carrying, only three were filled with flammable liquids. Regulators may consider expanding trains subject to “high risk” rules.

About three weeks after the derailment, the chemical smell that covered the village has largely disappeared, but some residents near the railroad say the smell still lingers in their homes.

The village of just under 5,000 is located near the Pennsylvania border in Columbiana County, which has become increasingly Republican in recent years. With Trump winning nearly 72% of his vote in his 2020 election, the signs of his popularity are clear.

At a car dealership in town, where bottled water was being handed out, there was a picture of Trump leaning against a barricade that read “Heroes Rise.” Signs and flags around the village endorse both Trump and potential 2024 Republican presidential nominee, Florida Governor Ron He DeSantis.

Since the derailment, residents have complained of headaches and itchy eyes. Thousands of fish were found dead, and residents say they have found dying or sick pets and wildlife. Residents are also frustrated by incomplete and vague information about the lasting effects of the disaster and are demanding more transparency from Norfolk Southern.

Spilled and burned gas after a train derailment — vinyl chloride, a chemical used to make hard plastic — has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers.

Environmental officials monitor airborne toxins during controlled burning, and ongoing air monitoring, including testing on 550 homes, has shown that levels of danger in the area have remained low since residents were allowed to return. It says it hasn’t been detected.

Residents like Cory Brittian, whose family owns a car dealership in the center of the village, praised Trump’s visit.

It would only help if we could shed some light on the situation here, especially in the federal government,” he said.

Associated Press writers Josh Funk of Omaha, Nebraska and Matthew Daly of Washington contributed to this report.

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