BELLEMONT, Ariz. (AP) -- Three locomotives burst into flames when a freight train rear-ended another train carrying a small amount of hazardous materials, authorities said. One person was missing and three were injured, one of them critically.
Authorities were searching on Wednesday for the missing person, identified initially as an engineer. "It's not looking good. It's a horrendous mess out there," Department of Public Safety Officer Mark Hall said.
No hazardous materials spilled in Tuesday's collision, about 10 miles west of Flagstaff, authorities said.
Fifteen families were evacuated from the sparsely populated area.
A National Transportation Safety Board inspector was traveling to the scene. The cause of the crash won't be known for some time, said Lena Kent, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, which operates the tracks.
The westbound lanes of Interstate 40, the main east-west route through northern Arizona, were reopened Wednesday morning, but the eastbound lanes remained close as the train wreckage continued to smolder.
Aerial footage showed small fires burning around crumpled and blackened freight cars lying across the tracks and the snow-covered ground. Thousands of gallons of diesel fuel had been burning earlier.
Vick Nichols Jr., who works at a gas station a mile and a half away, said the wreck looked like the oil wells set ablaze at the end of the Persian Gulf War.
"Take about 20 of those and put them together," Nichols said.
The sheriff's office initially identified the missing person as an engineer, but later could not confirm that.
One person was in a hospital burn unit, and two others were treated and released, hospital spokeswomen said.
Three double-stack container cars in the front train derailed but remained upright, Kent said.
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