Western Canada train hauling fuel derails, burns; no injuries

Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:11am EDT
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By Nia Williams

CALGARY (Reuters) - A train carrying crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas derailed and caught fire in Western Canada on Saturday, in an accident that brought back memories of a deadly crash in Quebec this summer.

But Saturday's accident, in open country just outside the tiny settlement of Gainford, Alberta, caused no injuries, and emergency services said they were opting to let the fire burn itself out rather than approach the blaze.

The 134-car mixed freight train was operated by Canadian National Railway, Canada's largest railroad, and was heading from Alberta's capital, Edmonton, to Vancouver, on the Pacific Coast.

CN Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena said 13 cars had derailed, and three, all carrying flammable liquid petroleum gas, caught fire. The derailed cars that carried crude oil had not leaked or caught fire, he said.

"CN will clean this up, remediate any damage," Vena told an evening news conference, noting that both the track and the train had been inspected in the last few days. It was too early to say what caused the accident, he said.

Rail safety has become a central issue in Canada since the July disaster in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a runaway train carrying crude oil exploded in giant fireballs in the center of the lakeside town, killing 47 people.

A key focus in the rail safety debate is the booming volumes of crude oil shipments by rail as pipelines fill to capacity and producers seek other ways to get their oil to refineries.

Weekly figures from the Association of American Railroads, which do not distinguish between shipments of refined fuel and crude oil, showed 6,937 rail cars were loaded with petroleum and petroleum products in Canada in the week ended October 12, up 13 percent from the same week in 2012. That is roughly equivalent to 594,600 barrels per day.   Continued...

A train derailment in Gainford, Alberta is seen in this aerial photo courtesy of the RCMP and Parkland County, October 19, 2013. REUTERS/RCMP and Parkland County/Handout