Train carrying oil derails, causes fireball

2013-12-31 10:49
A 1.6km-long train carrying crude oil has derailed outside a town in North Dakota, US, causing a massive fireball and a series of explosions. (Ken Pawluk, AP)

A 1.6km-long train carrying crude oil has derailed outside a town in North Dakota, US, causing a massive fireball and a series of explosions. (Ken Pawluk, AP)

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Casselton - Authorities urged residents to evacuate a small North Dakota town on Monday night after a mile-long (1.6km) train carrying crude oil derailed outside of town, shaking residents with a series of explosions that sent flames and black smoke skyward.

The Cass County sheriff's office said it was "strongly recommending" that people in the town of Casselton and anyone living 8km to the south and east evacuate. A shelter has been set up in Fargo, which is about 40km away. Casselton has about 2 400 residents.

The sheriff's office said the National Weather Service was forecasting a shift in the weather that could increase the risk of potential health hazards.

"That's going to put the plume right over the top of Casselton," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said at a news briefing.

As many as 10 cars out of more than 100 caught fire when the BNSF Railway Co. train left the tracks at about 14:30 local time on Monday. No one was hurt.

The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

Explosions

Authorities hadn't yet been able to determine exactly how the derailment happened, but a second train carrying grain was involved. BNSF spokesperson Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first, then knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks.

Ryan Toop, who lives about 800 metres away, said he heard explosions and drove as close as about two city blocks to the fire, which erupted on a day when temperatures were -18 Celsius.

"I rolled down the window, and you could literally keep your hands warm," Toop said.

The derailment happened amid increased concerns about the United States' increased reliance on rail to carry crude oil. Fears of catastrophic derailments were particularly stoked after last July's crash in a Quebec town of a runaway train carrying crude oil from North Dakota's Bakken oil patch. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing fire.

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