EDMONTON -- Petroleum-filled train cars continued to burn in Gainford, Alta., on Sunday, more than a day after a derailment led to the evacuation of about 100 residents.
But according to officials, the situation has improved.
Warren Chandler, spokesman for CN Rail, the company operating the line, said four cars carrying crude oil that had derailed 86 kilometres west of Edmonton but did not catch fire have been moved a safe distance from the site.
"They are now safely 300 feet away from the propane where the contents will be trans-loaded. CN confirms that the crude oil cars are intact and there were no leaks or loss of product," Chandler said.
Of the remaining cars, two filled with liquefied petroleum gas continued to burn but had been moved away from each other and a third had burned down itself out overnight.
Fire crews from Parkland County, Alta., kept an eye on grass fires and made sure flames didn't spread. RCMP kept the stretch of Highway 16 through the area closed.
For the evacuated residents, it is still unclear when they will be allowed to return home.
According to Parkland County spokesman Carson Mills, the roughly 100 people who registered at the evacuee reception centre in nearby Entwistle, Alta., would not be able to return to town until at least Monday, but online releases from the county later in the day said it could be as long as 48 hours more.
Chandler said the rail line, which serves as CN's main transcontinental route for rail transport, will be out of commission until cleanup is complete, but added priority is being given to safety and surrounding residents.
The derailment came on the heels of the federal government announcing changes to rules governing the transport of dangerous goods. Companies must now conduct classification testing of crude oil and make those tests available to Transportation Canada.
That didn't stop environmental groups from offering their criticism of existing transport laws.
"This kind of disaster will become the new normal unless the federal government takes much more effective measures to improve oil transportation safety," read a statement issued by Greenpeace on Saturday.
During a press conference held Saturday evening, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Minister Diana McQueen weighed in on what the province was doing to mitigate environmental damage from the Gainford incident.
"We are fortunate in this incident that the water bodies do not seem at risk," McQueen said. "The air quality is good here."
At the same press conference, CN executive vice-president and chief operating officer Jim Vena offered an apology to residents of the area. He said last year was the rail line's safest year on record, but admitted that "unfortunately, incidents happen."