11:30 a.m. UPDATE: CSX said the train was headed to Yorktown when it derailed Wednesday afternoon.
The cars that didn't derail have been cleared from downtown.
Officials say the company is implementing a "comprehensive environmental assessment and protection effort that includes land-, air- and water-based assessments of potential impacts from the derailment, including measures to prevent dispersal of any contents from the train that may have entered the James River. This work is being done in coordination with federal, state and local environmental authorities."
5/1 UPDATE: Clean up crews were working Thursday morning, with two cranes lifting several derailed cars and moving them to a new track.
Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Bill Hayden said Thursday morning that state workers smelled oil downstream from the derailment site during a night-time survey.
LYNCHBURG -- Authorities evacuated numerous buildings Wednesday afternoon after several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lynchburg and caught fire along the James River, city officials said.
The City of Lynchburg on its Web site posted that the fire department was on the scene and urged drivers and pedestrians to avoid the area.
It tweeted that the tanker cars were carrying crude oil and that three or four of them were breached. The city said 13 or 14 tanker cars were involved in the derailment.
WSET-TV reported that Lynchburg Police said three cars were leaking oil into the James River.
City officials tweeted that the spill is not impacting its drinking water.
CSX reported on its Web site that three of the approximately 15 derailed cars were on fire and that the fire was out. The train was headed to Virginia from Chicago when the derailment occurred around 2:30 p.m. CSX didn't say where in Virginia the train was going, but there is a storage facility - the Plains Terminal - in Yorktown. It's the only oil terminal in the state.
No injuries were reported, city officials said and residents were allowed to return to the evacuated area between Commerce & Jefferson around 5:30 p.m.
Photos and video show several black tanker cars derailed and extensive flames and smoke.
A witness told WSET-TV he saw dirt and stone beneath the train give way and then the train toppled over.
The city says CSX officials were working to remove the portion of the train that was blocking workers from leaving Griffin Pipe Foundry, which is located in the lower basin.
Governor Terry McAuliffe said the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia State Police, and the Virginia Department of Fire Programs are coordinating with local responders and mobilize the resources necessary to respond to this incident.
“Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adam Thiel has been dispatched to the scene and will provide my team and me with constant updates as this situation unfolds. I have also spoken with Lynchburg Mayor Michael Gillette and offered him any and all resources he needs to respond to this incident and keep Virginians safe,” he said.
Sierra Club Virginia has been calling for increased rail safety and emergency preparedness for crude oil passing through Virginia on its way to a storage facility in York County.
"Our thoughts are with the community in Lynchburg. Thankfully it seems like no one has been injured, but there are continuing threats to public health and the environment. This accident is a potent reminder of the dangers that come with our dependence on dirty fuels and reinforces the need for better safety measures and increased emergency preparedness. This train was one of many that pass along the James River, through more heavily populated areas including Richmond," said Chapter Director Glen Besa. "In the wake of this and other recent dirty fuel disasters, it's clear that we must move as quickly as possible to safer, cleaner forms of energy like wind and solar. The safest place for dirty fuels is in the ground."
The cause of the derailment is under investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board was sending investigators to the scene.
WRIC-TV in Richmond reports the City of Richmond is preparing an emergency plan for the city's water supply and Henrico County is taking precautionary measures to protect its water supply by filling its water storage tanks as a precaution.
CSX said early Wednesday evening that emergency response personnel, safety and environmental experts, community support teams and other resources are on site and on the way.