EFFINGHAM, Ill. – Late Friday night, chaos erupted in parts of Effingham County after a semi-truck loaded with anhydrous ammonia overturned due to a multi-car crash near Teutopolis, releasing a vast cloud of the toxic gas.
As the deadly fumes spread, late-night evacuation orders were hastily issued, jolting residents from their homes. By Saturday morning, the death toll had risen to five, as confirmed by the Effingham County Coroner, however the actual number is currently unknown.
The initial crash occurred at 9:25 p.m. near the intersection of Route 40 and N 1950th Street, less than a mile east of Teutopolis. The ensuing ammonia leak and chemical plum that followed led to widespread panic and the rapid expansion of evacuation zones. In a series of urgent updates from the Effingham City/County 911 Office and the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, residents were directed to safety, with some advisories urging immediate evacuation westward, notably away from the afflicted areas.
“Due to the plume from the ammonia leak, people within an approximate one mile radius of the crash on U.S. Highway 40, including northeastern parts of Teutopolis, have been evacuated.” Illinois State Police said in a statement early Saturday morning. “U.S. Highway 40 between Teutopolis and Montrose is currently closed. At this time, there are multiple fatalities.”
Shelters sprang into action to accommodate the displaced, with St. Anthony Grade School in Effingham becoming a primary refuge. U.S. Highway 40 remains shut down, and emergency crews continue to battle the crisis. The Illinois State Police, who are spearheading the investigation, are pleading with the public to avoid the vicinity and have provided a hotline (1-618-542-2171) for those seeking information on loved ones.
With hazmat teams on site and multiple agencies lending support, the response remains in high gear.