JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hundreds of people evacuated from a nightclub on Phillips Highway early Sunday morning due to a chemical leak from a rail car nearby. Jacksonville Fire Rescue issued an immediate evacuation order for Jacksonville residents living in the area. All orders are now lifted.
Around 1:30 a.m. Sunday, the owner of Nowhere Restaurant and Lounge, Anthony Jones, says law enforcement officers on duty told him to evacuate everyone from the property.
"We calmly politely communicated over the microphone and told guests there has been a biochemical spill in the area. We have to shut down the business," Jones said.
The business closes at 2:00 a.m., but Jones says a couple hundred people were still inside at the time of the evacuation. Everyone safely and calmly evacuated away from the property in about 15 minutes. Jacksonville Fire Rescue Department says Phillips Highway was shutdown for a few hours.
"Everybody had to turn right on Phillips highway," Jones said.
JFRD says around 1:00 a.m. a call came in that a tanker rail car carrying about 30,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid was leaking in the yard of Florida East Coast Railway in the 7100 block of Phillips Highway.
JFRD Captain Eric Proswimmer says when about 50 firefighters arrived, there was a “cloud” in the air coming from the leak. The direction of the "cloud" was initially heading east, but then shifted west, meaning some of the area along Powers Avenue became a concern.
Once firefighters were able to approach the leak, they put a strap around the rail car to stop it, according to Proswimmer. He says an estimation of 200 to 300 gallons of acid leaked onto the ground. Measures went in place to determine wind direction, humidity and other factors before issuing the evacuation order.
Proswimmer said hydrochloric acid can cause burns, eye irritation, and respiratory illnesses if exposed to it.
"It's not something that that you want to mess with. We were fortunate that it's very calm, probably a little humid so it may have kept it lower, but it didn't move a lot," JFRD Captain Eric Proswimmer said.
Jones says he and others got an alert on their phones about the chemical leak and evacuation order.
"I know my staffs' phones all went off at the same time as mine," Jones said.
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Proswimmer says the rail company is responsible for the cleanup. JFRD says there is not a hazard to the public.