Edmonton

Evacuation order lifted near derailed Alberta propane cars

Residents forced from their houses by a train derailment near Gainford, Alta. on the weekend were allowed to return home Tuesday afternoon.
Investigators survey the site of a train derailment near the hamlet of Gainford, west of Edmonton. Residents were allowed to return to their homes Tuesday afternoon. (Reuters/Dan Riedlhuber)

More than 100 people forced from their homes by a train derailment near Gainford, Alta. on the weekend were allowed to return home Tuesday afternoon. 

The mandatory evacuation order was lifted at 1:30 p.m. MT. 

"The residents of Parkland County, from around the hamlet of Gainford, are on their way home," said Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. 

Ranch owner Milos Mrdjenovich found burned grass and a torn-down fence when he inspected his property on Tuesday. (CBC)

The rail cars are no longer on fire and service is expected to resume Tuesday night. However, the section of Highway 16 next to the derailment site remains closed until it is deemed safe. 

CN spokesman Warren Chandler expressed gratitude to the residents for their patience. 

“We know that this accident disrupted their lives for a few days and I know they are concerned about what they will find when they return to their homes," he said. "CN will remediate any damage that was done.”

Chandler said that "dozens and dozens" of CN employees remain on site to help with the cleanup. 

Ranch owner Milos Mrdjenovich found burned grass and a torn-down fence when he inspected his property for the first time on Tuesday.

Randolph Orchison is one of 126 residents forced from their homes by the derailment. (CBC)

He worried about how the damage could affect his cattle, bison and horses.

“The water is really a big factor there because it could have got contaminated … because they have to drink that water there close to where the accident happened," he said. 

Other residents expressed relief at finally returning home. 

"I miss my home," said Randolph Orchison. "I guess I miss my bed and I miss our yard. It's kind of funny because I always would complain [about] the house but now I just want to hug it."

Orchison is one of 126 people forced to leave their homes after 13 cars carrying carrying oil and liquefied petroleum gas went off the rails near the tiny hamlet, about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton, early Saturday morning. 

Three of the cars caught fire. On Sunday, CN started a controlled burn of the propane in the derailed cars.

Shortly after 5 p.m. MT Monday, CN tried for the second time to use explosives to puncture the derailed cars to help burn off the propane, but shortly after 7 p.m., it found one tank car still contained almost 57,000 litres of propane. 

CN intended to start a third controlled burn, but when officials discovered the propane tank car was flaring just before 9 p.m., officials decided to pump water into the tank to hasten the burn-off.

Fire crews began pouring water into the tank before 7 a.m. Tuesday.

Three investigators from the Transportation Safety Board are now on site. 

The board reported the train's emergency brake was applied during the derailment on the Gainford siding.

An inspection revealed that cars 13 through 25 left the track, coming to rest on their side.

CN has said the 134-car train was travelling to Vancouver from Edmonton at a normal speed of 35 km/h when 13 cars left the tracks.

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