Freight train derails near Chicago |

Freight train derails near Chicago

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) – A freight train derailed Friday night, triggering an explosion that prompted officials to evacuate the area northwest of Chicago amid concerns more of the train’s cars might catch fire.

Officials said there were several injuries, but they did not have any details about how many or how serious they were.

The 114-car train included 74 tankers carrying ethanol, 12 of which were involved in the fire, Kirk Wilson, a fire chief of nearby Rockton told reporters at the scene.

The cause of the derailment remained under investigation, Wilson said.

The area had experienced extremely heavy rainfall prior to the 8:30 p.m. derailment and the Rockford Register Star reported that the track may have been washed out.

Wilson, whose department was one of 26 that responded to the derailment, said area residents within a half-mile of the scene of the derailment were being evacuated out of concern that the other tanker cars carrying ethanol might catch fire.

Witnesses reported seeing a massive fireball after the derailment.

“At first I thought it was a tornado because they always say a tornado sounds like a train coming,” Jeff Tilley, an employee of the Rockford Register Star who lives near the scene, told the newspaper.

Another Register Star employee, Amy Walker, said she and her husband were in a car near the crossing when they saw train cars bouncing up and down.

“Then they started piling up and the two tank cars exploded,” she said.

When that happened, she said, several people in vehicles near the crossing jumped out and ran away.