Thirteen cars came off the tracks around 1 a.m. Saturday -- 9 of which were carrying liquefied petroleum gas and four that were carrying crude oil. The derailment prompted local officials to declare a state of emergency and the evacuation of the nearly hamlet of Gainford about 80km west of Edmonton. As AP reports, an eyewitness noted "the fireball was so big, it shot across both lanes of the Yellowhead (Highway)... there's fire on both sides." According to the latest reports, the train cars remain ablaze as the liquified hydrocarbons continue to leak. Parkland County police chief added "how it exploded and why is yet to be determined," but while only 2 injuries (CN employees) and no deaths have been reported, he noted "it's still a risky situation so we need to contain as much as possible and keep people far away." This explosion comes just 3 months after the disaster that too 47 lives in Lac-Megantic and once again raises questions over the safety of dramatically increased rail traffic from/to the Bakken.
Local News details:
More color from eyewtinesses:
Images of the scene:
The accident occurred at 1am and a helicpter captured the initial images...
and as day light arrived, the proximity to the freeway was evident...
The Freeway remains closed...
Emergency crews battled a massive fire Saturday after a Canadian National tanker train carrying oil and gas derailed west of Edmonton, Alberta, overnight. No injuries have been reported so far.
Canadian National spokesman Louis-Antoine Paquin said 13 cars — four carrying petroleum crude oil and nine loaded with liquified petroleum gas — came off the tracks around 1 a.m. local time in the hamlet of Gainford, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Edmonton. The entire community of roughly 100 people was evacuated.
The train was travelling from Edmonton to Vancouver, British Columbia, Paquin said.
The Transportation Safety Board said it is sending investigators to the scene.
Questions about the increasing transport of oil by rail in the U.S. and Canada were raised in July after an unattended train with 72 tankers of oil rolled into the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic near the Maine border, derailing and triggering explosions that killed 47 people. The town's center was destroyed. The rail company's chairman blamed the train's operator for failing to set enough hand brakes.
Much of that increase is from oil produced in the Bakken region, a rock formation underlying portions of Montana and North Dakota in the U.S., and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada.
The train that crashed in the small Quebec town was carrying oil from North Dakota to a refinery in New Brunswick, Canada.
The train, using DOT-111 railcars, was operated by a U.S. company, the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.
The fire is still burning (via CBC),
Although Mills initially told CBC News that two of the cars containing liquefied petroleum gas were on fire, a later news release by Evansburg RCMP stated that three cars — all containing LPG — had caught fire.
Officials told CBC that one of the three burning cars later exploded, and that another is now compromised.
Fire officials say they have little choice but to let the fire burn itself out.
Louis-Antoine Paquin, speaking for CN, said the four crude oil tankers are still intact.
“Right now, the idea is to remediate the situation and try to contain the fire,” said Paquin, who said the risk to the local community has been minimized as much as possible.
Questions over saefty remain (via CBC),
“This kind of disaster will become the new normal unless the federal government takes much more effective measures to improve oil transportation safety,” said Mike Hudema, speaking for Greenpeace.
“The truth is that the Harper government has become such a cheerleader for the petroleum industry that it is failing in its duty to protect our communities and the environment.
“This is the third major derailment in Alberta in the last few months. How many more will it take before Ottawa implements transportation safety regulations that were recommended more than a decade ago?"
In the first half of this year, U.S. railroads moved 178,000 carloads of crude oil. That's double the number during the same period last year and 33 times more than during the same period in 2009. The Railway Association of Canada estimates that as many as 140,000 carloads of crude oil will be shipped on Canada's tracks this year, up from 500 carloads in 2009.
Following the fatal Quebec derailment, Cynthia Quarterman, head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, has said the U.S. agency expects to publish draft regulations requiring that DOT-111 railcars be retrofitted to address safety concerns. The agency's proposal is intended to fix a dangerous design flaw in the rail cars, which are used to haul oil and other hazardous liquids throughout North America.