West Virginia oil train derails and burns, towns evacuated

A CSX Corp. freight train hauling crude oil has derailed in West Virginia, setting a number of cars ablaze and forcing the evacuation of two nearby towns.

House catches fire as freight cars derail near Kanawha River

There were reports that at least one of the burning rail cars ended up in the Kanawha River, but CSX Corp. on Tuesday said none of the cars landed there. (Tega McGuffin/Twitter)

A CSX Corp train hauling North Dakota crude derailed in West Virginia on Monday, setting a number of cars ablaze, destroying a house and forcing
the evacuation of two towns in the second significant oil-train incident in three days.

One or two train cars plunged into the Kanawha River, and "a couple are burning," said Robert Jelacic, night shift manager of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. There were no injuries or deaths, he said.

The company issued a news release saying  one person was being treated for potential inhalation issues, but no other injuries were reported.

A one-kilometre-wide area around the derailment was being evacuated after a house caught fire because of the accident, Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, told Reuters.

Messina said CSX had confirmed the train's only cargo was crude oil. Heavy snow and frigid temperatures were hindering efforts to deal with the incident, Jelacic said. A CSX spokesman did not immediately reply to messages seeking comment.

The train derailed at 1:20 p.m. ET about 54 kilometres southeast of Charleston, the state capital, according to Fayette
County 911 Coordinator James Bennett.

Crews from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and numerous fire departments responded to the scene, Messina said.

WOWK television reported that the nearby towns of Adena Village and Boomer Bottom were being evacuated.

2nd rail crash in region

It was not immediately clear where the train was heading, where its cargo originated or whose oil it was carrying. The
crash occurred less than 320 kilometres west of Lynchburg, Virginia, where another CSX train bound for an East Coast oil terminal run by Plains All American Pipelines derailed and erupted in flames last April.

Local websites showed images of large flames and a thick plume of black smoke near a partly frozen river, with a number of houses nearby.

The latest incident comes just two days after Canadian National Railways train from Alberta's oil sands derailed in a remote wooded area of northern Ontario. CN said 29 of 100 cars were involved and seven caught fire. No injuries were reported, but the cars were still on fire on Monday.

A boom in oil shipments by rail and a spate of derailments across North America have put heightened focus on rail safety. In 2013, 47 people were killed in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.

The latest incidents will likely refocus attention on U.S. and Canadian regulators' efforts to improve the safety of such shipments, which have spurred concerns over both the flammability of very light oil from the North Dakota Bakken shale as well as the flawed design of older tank cars.

The U.S. Transportation Department has submitted a proposal to the White House to require adding an extra 1/8th inch of steel to most existing oil train tank shells, while new models would have the thicker hull installed on the factory floor.

It was unclear what kind of tank cars were involved in the derailment on Monday.

With files from The Associated Press


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