Mark Byrnes is a senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The impact could be felt at least 21 miles away.
A freight train derailed in the suburbs of Baltimore Tuesday afternoon, setting off powerful explosions and sending a plume of fire and smoke high into the air.
According to the Baltimore County Fire Department, the train collided with a truck around 2 p.m. today, knocking 15 cars off-track. Two are still on fire but emergency responders won't attempt to put out the flames until they determine what materials are inside.
The truck driver is being treated for injuries.
The location of the train derailment. View Larger Map
WBAL reports people felt the explosion as far as 21 miles away. A WBAL reporter on location has observed witnesses covering their noses and mouths with their clothing because of a chemical smell and "something in the air that makes your eyes sting."
The Baltimore Sun has reported that several industrial buildings next to the explosion site collapsed, although the train did not make contact with any buildings.
The Baltimore Mayor's Office of Emergency Management announced the incident in a tweet and asked people to avoid the area:
There has been an incident involving a train in NE Baltimore, near the Co line. Avoid the 21237 area. More info as we get it #BalTrain— Baltimore OEM (@BaltimoreOEM) May 28, 2013
People have been tweeting images of the fire from up close and miles away since the story broke:
BREAKING NEWS: Getting reports of an explosion in E Baltimore. We have a crew on the scene and will post updates twitter.com/FOXBaltimore/s…— FOX Baltimore (@FOXBaltimore) May 28, 2013
Two employees at a nearby seafood wholesaler said the explosion was "strong enough to knock off pieces of a ceiling furnace and pictures from the walls," according to the Sun.
In the video below, two men in a car drive towards the smoke out of curiosity, turning around shortly after an additional explosion at the 1:03 mark (warning: language in video is NSFW).
A live, local news feed from the site can be viewed here.
Update, 5:15pm: John Hohman, Baltimore County fire chief, told the media at a 5 pm press conference that the two rail cars on fire contain terephthalic acid and fluoroacetic acid. Neither are toxic inhalants. Hohman also said they expect the fire to "burn into the night" but there are no imminent health concerns.