Update: Northbound lanes open; southbound lanes still closed; fire out; highway officials inspecting damaged interstate

6:11 p.m. update: Indiana State Police reports that the extreme heat from the morning semi fire on I-65 in Jackson County has caused damage to a large section of asphalt. Indiana Department of Transportation crews are on the scene inspecting the roadway.

Here’s a photo of the asphalt:

asphalt damage

6:09 p.m. update: The fire is out. Cleanup has started.

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4:30 p.m. update: From the Indiana Department of Transportation: At this time, we are waiting for ISP to bring INDOT personnel onto the SB I-65 crash site at mile marker 43. Pavement damage assessment from the chemical fire can be made at that time–with repairs following. No time estimate for reopening SB I-65 until then.

3:08 p.m. update:  The truck is still burning and it is probably going to be burning for hours, according to officials. The Environmental Protection Agency has told firefighters not to put water on the fire.

The smoke from the fire has been monitored and evaluated by officials with the state fire marshal’s office, and they told a local official no harmful chemicals or byproducts were found.

People are going to be notified that they can return home shortly.

There about 25 homes in the area and many residents were not at home at the time of the fire.

Duane Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said once the burned remains of the truck are removed from the scene, state highway crews will grind the pavement and fix the blacktop.

3:03 p.m. update: Northbound Interstate 65 in Jackson County is open. the southbound lanes will remain closed for a lengthy time.

2:30 p.m. update: Officials are recommending that people evacuate the area because of the smoke and what it might contain from the chemicals.

“For right now, there’s no way for me to know what the contents of the truck was,” said Duane Davis, director of the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency.

He said smoke can cause respiratory problems.

“Air monitoring will start soon and we’ll be able to let people back in when it registers as safe,” he said.

The fire has severely damaged the interstate and it will take time to repair, Davis said.

The Columbus Fire Department has arrived on the scene to offer assistance.

2:25 p.m. update: Indiana State Police reports that the chemical crash fire is burning out. All lanes of Interstate 65 are still closed. Alternate route is U.S. 31.

1:43 p.m. update: Duane Davis, director of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said he expects the evacuation to last for about four more hours.

Crothersville Community Schools has been notified and plan to make changes to two bus routes that go into that area.

The Salvation Army also is setting up shop south of the crash scene to provide food and water and relief for firefighters, police and other workers.

1:06 p.m. update: The truck was carrying four types of hazardous materials, two corrosion, one oxidizer and one with acid,  Indiana State Trooper Seth Davidson said.

“The chemicals spilled and mixed,” he said.

Officials are allowing the fire to burn out.

No life-threatening injuries reported. A passenger in one of three trucks sustained non-life threatening injuries and was taken to Schneck Medical Center by Jackson County Emergency Medical Services personnel.

The accident happened about 4:30 a.m. today.

1:05 p.m. update: Authorities are knocking on doors and recommending people evacuate. It is not a mandatory evacuation and there is no shelter set up.

Officials said some people left, but one man they talked to has decided to stay unless he wind shifts.

12:39 p.m. update: Duane Davis, director of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, said they are evacuating people within a half mile radius. Few people live near the area to the west of the Interstate because it is Swifty Farms, a horse farm. He said people are cooperating with the order to evacuate and there is no panic.

12:38 p.m. update: Duane Davis, director of Jackson County Emergency Management Agency, is on scene. There is no explosion. Officials are allowing the fire to burn out. Davis does not know what kind of chemicals the truck was carrying.

12:25 p.m. update: The truck is on fire, according to our reporters at the scene. A dark smoke cloud can be seen for miles.

Noon update: In a few minutes, all lanes from the 41- to 50-mile markers will be clear of traffic and closed so cleanup can start.

11:38 a.m. update: Northbound lanes are being shutdown too. State police are calling the situation an explosion risk.

From the Indiana State Police: The situation on I-65 in Jackson County continues to deteriorate. As a precaution, northbound lanes of I-65 are now being shutdown at exit 41. All houses within a half mile of the scene are being evacuated at this time.

11:22 a.m. update: The southbound lanes are closed again.

From the Indiana State Police: Just when we thought we had turned the corner and opened one lane of I-65 southbound at the 43 mile marker, complications with the cleanup arose. No timetable on when we may be able to open a lane again.

10:30 a.m. update: Indiana State Police are reopening Interstate 65 southbound lanes near Seymour after an early-morning collision between three semis. At 10:30 a.m., state police troopers began leading traffic though one lane at the scene of the crash.

Indiana State Police are investigating a crash on Interstate 65 south near the 43 mile marker involving three semis, one of which was carrying hazardous material that spilled in the southbound lanes.

The crash happened at 4:30 a.m. today when a semi rear-ended two other semi trailers who were stopped due to a previous crash, said Sgt. Stephen Wheeles, Indiana State Police spokesman. The collision caused one of the trailers to have a leak of a hazardous chemical it was hauling, Wheeles said. A passenger in one of the vehicles suffered non-life threatening injuries and was taken to a local hospital.

Both southbound lanes of I-65 were closed until 10:30 a.m. when the left lane was reopened for single-lane traffic to continue south. The right lane remains closed while the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and a private environmental cleanup company are containing the chemical spill and offloading the contents of the leaking trailer, Wheeles said.

During the interstate lane closing, traffic was diverted off I-65 at U.S. 50, to U.S. 31 to State Road 250 and then back to I-65 south. The northbound lanes of the interstate were not affected, Wheeles said.

The chemical spill is not believed to be a threat to area residents or passing motorists, Wheeles said. Both lanes of southbound I-65 are expected to be open by this afternoon, Wheeles said.

For more on this story, check back here or pick up a Thursday Republic.