PAULSBORO, NJ -- A bridge collapsed in the West Deptford area of New Jersey on Friday, sending several train cars carrying toxic chemicals crashing into a creek near the Delaware River, the U.S. Coast Guard said.
Vinyl chloride, a highly toxic and flammable chemical, is believed to be leaking into Mantua Creek, Petty Officer Nick Ameen told CNN.
A representative for Underwood Memorial Hospital told CNN that the hospital has treated 18 patients with respiratory issues.
A hazardous materials team is on the scene, said Glen Roemmich, a Paulsboro area emergency management coordinator.
Video of the train wreck from CNN affiliate WPVI showed two tanker cars dangling from the collapsed railroad bridge. Other cars were in the creek, partially sunken amid rising smoke.
Residents told WPVI that they smelled an odor in the area. People in the town of Paulsboro should stay indoors for now and keep windows closed, a Gloucester County spokeswoman said.
The Coast Guard is not in a search-and-rescue mode, Ameen said. Coast Guard crews, he said, are heading to the scene to stop the leak and begin cleaning it up.
A team from the National Transportation Safety Board, the nation's top transportation investigator, is on its way to the scene, the agency said.
Vinyl chloride is used to make plastic and vinyl products, including PVC pipes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has labeled the chemical a Group A human carcinogen.
"Short-term exposure to high levels of vinyl chloride in air has resulted in central nervous system effects, such as dizziness, drowsiness, and headaches," the EPA says on its website.
Paulsboro is southwest of Camden, about a 20-minute drive from Philadelphia.