Burning Canadian rail cars keep main line to Pacific blocked

Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:45am EDT
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By Louise Egan

(Reuters) - Burning rail cars from a derailed Canadian train are taking longer to burn out than Canadian National Railway (CN) expected, closing the operator's main line to the Pacific coast and keeping 100 people from their homes.

The derailment in the province of Alberta, a reminder of a deadly accident in Quebec in July that killed 47 people, happened early on Saturday morning near the little settlement of Gainford, which was evacuated.

No one was hurt, but 13 of the mixed freight train's 134 cars derailed. One car containing highly flammable liquefied petroleum gas, also known as propane, exploded and three other burst into flames. Unlike the disaster in the town of Lac-Magentic, Quebec, the latest accident took place in open country.

CN punctured holes in the remaining cars containing propane to speed up the burning process and had expected the gas to be burned off by Monday morning, allowing residents who had been evacuated to return home. But by late Sunday the cars still contained some propane and the railway called off the operation, Warren Chandler, its senior manager of public and government affairs said.

"After the controlled burn last night, we have left the cars to vent overnight and are now assessing the next steps," he told a news conference.

The accident has brought rail safety and fuel transportation regulations back to the top of Canada's agenda, especially as it comes so soon after the Lac-Megantic disaster, in which a runaway crude oil train derailed and exploded in the center of the Quebec lakeside town.

Canadian energy producers are increasingly relying on rail to transport crude oil and other energy products due to pipeline

bottlenecks.   Continued...