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Long, slow cleanup of derailed train begins along I-5

Crews work to clean up damaged rail cars after an Amtrak train derailed near Tacoma. (Photo: KOMO News)

DUPONT, Wash. - As the shock of Monday's Amtrak derailment onto Interstate 5 slowly wears off, the massive cleanup is getting underway.

Officials say it will be a very slow process, and no one can estimate exactly when the southbound lanes of I-5 will reopen at the crash scene.

It took several hours overnight to move just a single train car. By noon, five cars had been moved. This afternoon, a locomotive that weighs more than 270,000 pounds will be moved.

The cars are being trucked north up the closed southbound lanes of Interstate 5. There will be some brief closures of northbound I-5 as the trucks cross it. Motorists can also expect some closures of the Steilacoom-DuPont Road.

Officials say the train cars will be moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where it will be reconstructed for the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

There are total of 12 cars derailed. Some landed on the freeway and others were suspended down the embankment alongside I-5. The front engine also landed directly in I-5 lanes of traffic. The rear engine is the only car that did not go off the tracks

It's going to take some time to carefully get the cleanup done - not only to preserve the evidence but to make sure that all of the crews are safe.

The derailment couldn't have happened at a worse place - right over a super busy I-5.

The tracks run right along John Forestring's property. He tells KOMO News that he's been concerned about the tracks here for some time.

"People got killed for no reason," he says. "Any basic engineer could go up there and say, 'Hey, this is not a good idea. Let's reroute it.' But they didn't. It was the cheapest way to go."

This was the first train to utilize these tracks with passengers on board - and on Monday it had five crew membes and 80 passnegers when it derailed.

The train left late from Seattle - 10 minutes after its scheduled 6 a.m. departure, according to rail trackers.

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