Calgary

Evacuation north of Lethbridge ends after CP Rail train leaks octane

A derailed Canadian Pacific Railway train, leaking octane, forced the evacuation of several communities and closed an Alberta highway frequently used as an alternative route between Calgary and Lethbridge. That order was lifted later in the afternoon.

Authorities lifted evacuation order just after 4 p.m. MT Monday

A CP Rail train derailed north of Lethbridge Monday resulting in three cars spilling octane. (Brandyn Montgomery/Lethbridge News Now)

A southern Alberta evacuation order has been lifted after a derailed Canadian Pacific Railway train leaked octane Monday morning.

The train left the tracks around at 7:40 a.m. MT Monday south of the village of Barons, Alta., railway spokesperson Salem Woodrow said by email. Barons is roughly 30 kilometres north of Lethbridge.

CP Rail has deployed teams to the site, she said. The Transportation Safety Board says it has a team of investigators from Calgary en route to the scene, which is near Highway 23 at Township Road 120.

Three rail cars leaked octane, which is flammable, Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey said. Two have been secured but a third remains buried by other cars. The pile has to be taken apart in order to reach the leak, he said, adding that work may continue into the night.

"They're doing their best right at the present moment to get the others moved so they can shut this one off," Hickey said. "Depends what kind of shape it's in when they get it exposed."

The railroad runs close to Highway 23, which was closed after the derailment. (Brandyn Montgomery/Lethbridge News Now)

Photos from the scene show railcars lying within metres of the roadway.

The county had issued a critical alert by 10:50 a.m. MT that included an evacuation order for communities in a two-kilometre radius around the derailment site.

Hickey said six homes were evacuated, and the bulk of the other evacuees came from the campground and golf course.

One of the leaking cars was buried under other cars, so crews had to free it before plugging its leak. (Brandyn Montgomery/Lethbridge News Now)

Highway 23 remains closed in both directions from Township Road 11-4 to Township Road 12-2.

Highway 23 was closed at Township Road 120 due to a train derailment. (Google Maps)

Hazmat teams from CP Rail and local fire departments were on the scene to contain the leak.

The derailment was first announced by 511 Alberta shortly after 10 a.m. MT, and warned of traffic delays in the area due to the road closure. Traffic was rerouted westbound.

'Not good for business'

Jim Striemer, manager of the Keho Lake campground and golf course, said he told upwards of 300 golfers and campers to evacuate.

"I told everybody there was an emergency. Everybody has to leave," he said.

RCMP helped him knock on the doors of more than 100 trailer doors. Many of the campers are snowbirds who make Keho Lake their permanent home in the summer, Striemer said, making the evacuation all the more inconvenient.

"It's not good for business, that's for sure," he said.

Tanya McPhee took this photo of the derailed train, just north of Lethbridge. (Tanya McPhee)

As for the cause, officials are waiting for the Transportation Safety Board investigators to arrive and start their investigation. Hickey said it was his understanding that CP had been keeping up with track maintenance.

While work continues, he's asking Albertans to stay away from the site.

"Biggest thing for safety is to keep everyone out of that area and stay away," Hickey said. "A lot of people like to drive out and have a look, but don't do so."

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with CBC Calgary. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

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