Biden says 'going to be a while' before he visits East Palestine as town struggles post-derailment

Ohio officials have called on Biden to issue a disaster declaration for East Palestine.

Published: September 3, 2023 7:57am

Updated: September 3, 2023 11:43am

President Joe Biden said he does not plan on visiting East Palestine, Ohio, for quite some time, after the town was devastated earlier this year by a train derailment that polluted the area.

"I haven't had the occasion to go to East Palestine. There's a lot going on here, and I just haven't been able to break," Biden said Saturday in Florida as he visited sites damaged by Hurricane Idalia in response to a question from a reporter who asked him whether he planned to visit the Ohio town.

"I was thinking whether I'd go to East Palestine this week, but I then was reminded I've got to go literally around the world from Washington to India to Vietnam to – and so on. It's going to be a while," Biden also said.

A train derailed in East Palestine on Feb. 3, and officials performed a controlled burn on the wreck, sending toxic chemicals such as hydrogen chloride and phosgene into eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania.

Thousands of fish died after the derailment and nearly half of the federal investigators who went to the scene briefly fell ill while investigating possible health effects in East Palestine. The investigators' symptoms mirrored those of residents.

Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) and Sen. J.D. Vance (R) have called on Biden to issue a disaster declaration for East Palestine.

"The Biden administration has ignored Ohio’s pleas for help. This is inexcusable: a disaster declaration would guarantee the delivery of resources the community needs to save itself," Vance said last month.

While Biden has not visited the site, former President Donald Trump did just days after the crash. 

"You are not forgotten," Trump told a crowd as he visited the site earlier this year. "We stand with you."

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