More than 200 teen-agers were evacuated today from a summer camp because of toxic chemicals spilled into the Des Moines River by a train blown off a 190-foot-high bridge by 60-m.p.h. winds, officials said.
"All indications are the train was hit by extremely high winds or a tornado," Chicago & Northwestern Vice President Jim Foote said. None of the train's four crew members were injured, he said.
Eighteen cars of the 31-car westbound train jumped the tracks about 11 p.m. Monday, and 15 plunged to the central Iowa river. It was not until early today that authorities learned that at least one car contained toxic chemicals.
State officials do not know what chemicals leaked or what environmental danger they pose, said Jerry Mathiason, an aide to Gov. Terry Branstad.
"It's very evident there are chemicals leaking out," Branstad said after flying over the scene today. "You can see along the west bend of the river the water is very green.
Branstad declared Boone County, where the accident occurred, and neighboring Polk County a disaster area because of the heavy thunderstorms which rolled through the area Monday night.
"The (Iowa Department of) Natural Resources people are asking people to stay off the Des Moines River and Saylorville Lake as a precautionary measure," Branstad told reporters.
He said there is no immediate danger to cities that get drinking water from the river.