British Columbia

Freight train derails near Prince George, B.C., triggering school evacuation

An elementary school had to be evacuated Thursday morning after a major train derailment near a small central B.C. community.

Cause of derailment not known, investigation underway

CN says there is no danger to public safety as there are no fires, injuries or leaks. (Submitted by Mike Kubilius)

An elementary school had to be evacuated Thursday morning after a major train derailment in a small central B.C. community.

The CN freight train derailed near Giscome, which is about 40 kilometres east of Prince George and next to Eaglet Lake, at around 10 a.m. PT.

Approximately 20 railcars went off the tracks, according to CN. It is not clear what the train was carrying, but the company says there were a variety of different products.  

Catherine Kendall was driving her children to town from their home on a nearby farm when they came upon the scene of crumpled, twisted rail cars. She described the wreckage as "un-freaking-believable" in an interview with CBC News.

"My concern was the kids," Kendall said.

The freight train derailed near Prince George, B.C., on Thursday morning. (Submitted by Catharine Kendall)

Just 200 metres away from the tracks, students were in class at Giscome Elementary School. 

"We were advised by CN, and also the school district made it quite clear that we needed to evacuate immediately," vice principal Jason Schwartz said.

"The kids were very calm."

The students were moved to a local church as a safety precaution, B.C.'s School District 57 confirmed. The school will stay closed on Friday, and staff and students will be sent to Blackburn Elementary for the day.

CN says there is no danger to public safety as there are no fires, injuries or leaks. 

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is sending a team of investigators to determine what caused the train to derail. 

A stream of emergency workers arrived on the scene Thursday, and trucks brought in heavy machinery, stacks of rail ties and porta-potties as clean-up got underway.

The train derailed near the Giscome Elementary School, which has since been evacuated. (Submitted by Catharine Kendall)

Since late December, there have been more than half a dozen derailments across Canada, with at least three in B.C. 

In February, the federal government announced plans to lower train speed limits across the country following two fiery derailments of oil-carrying Canadian Pacific trains in Saskatchewan in as many months.

Trains carrying dangerous goods were restricted to a limit of 40 km/h outside of metropolitan areas. 

That order was revised a week later, allowing trains to travel up to 80 km/h in non-metropolitan areas where there were signalized tracks.

It is not known if speed was a factor in the latest derailment. 

Police kept people away from the scene of the derailment in the Giscome area on Thursday. (Betsy Trumpener/CBC)

With files from Betsy Trumpener, Nicole Oud and Bethany Lindsay

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