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Evacuation ordered as train carrying crude oil derails, catches fire in New Brunswick

Posted Jan. 07, 2014, at 9:29 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 08, 2014, at 4:30 p.m.
Flames and smoke are seen at the site of a train derailment in Wapske, New Brunswick, Jan. 8, 2014. A Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derailed and caught fire on Tuesday in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, the latest in a string of train accidents that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under heavy scrutiny. No one was injured but about 45 nearby homes were evacuated.
MATHIEU BELANGER | Reuters
Flames and smoke are seen at the site of a train derailment in Wapske, New Brunswick, Jan. 8, 2014. A Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derailed and caught fire on Tuesday in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, the latest in a string of train accidents that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under heavy scrutiny. No one was injured but about 45 nearby homes were evacuated.

View Plaster Rock, N.B. in a larger map

A train carrying propane and crude oil derailed Tuesday night in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, causing a fire and the evacuation of local residents. There were no reports of injuries, according to local officials and the railroad.

The Canadian National Railway train, which carried “dangerous goods” including propane and crude oil, derailed near the village of Plaster Rock at about 7 p.m. local time, according to Jim Feeny, director of public and government affairs at CN.

An “undesired brake application” caused Tuesday night’s derailment in New Brunswick of a Canadian National Railway train carrying crude oil and propane tanker cars, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada said on Wednesday.

A transportation board official told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that a mechanical failure caused the train brakes to go into emergency mode. As a result, the train stopped as quickly as possible.

CN officials said Wednesday morning that the derailment includes five cars containing crude and three containing propane. The company said says its dangerous goods specialists safely approached “derailed and burning cars” at first light. The specialists’ goal is to determine which cars are on fire and that inspection is ongoing.

CN added it has reports that fire has “diminished considerably” from last night. CN and local officials are working jointly to find best response to extinguish the fires and deal with derailed cars and their contents, the company said.

Plaster Rock is approximately 35 miles east of Caribou, Maine.

A spokesman said 17 cars derailed, including propane tankers, crude tankers, a locomotive and hopper cars, but said no one knew whether the cars had been full.

This latest derailment comes a little more than a week after a train carrying crude oil in the booming oil state of North Dakota derailed and exploded.

A series of explosive derailments has reignited the push for tougher regulation as a boom in U.S. oil production has dramatically increased the number of oil trains moving across the continent as pipelines fail to keep up with growing supply.

The derailment in New Brunswick happened about 3.7 miles east of the village of about 1,000 in a mainly wooded area, according to Sharon DeWitt, emergency measures coordinator for Plaster Rock. As a precaution, the few homes in the 1.25 mile area around the derailment site have been evacuated.

DeWitt said fire officials say the cars appear to have been mostly empty except for some propane residue, and are burning.

There have been five major accidents in the past year involving a train carrying crude oil. The most devastating occurred in Quebec in July last year, when a train derailed and exploded in the town of Lac Megantic, killing 47.

Some politicians have called for a phase-out or retrofit of old tankers that do not meet current safety standards and are prone to puncture.

Watch bangordailynews.com for updates.

 

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