Fire still burning in N.B. train derailment

Flames and smoke are seen at the site of a train derailment in Wapske, N.B., on January 8, 2014....

Flames and smoke are seen at the site of a train derailment in Wapske, N.B., on January 8, 2014. (REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:47 PM ET

Responders are still fighting a fire that started after a CN train carrying crude oil and propane derailed near the village of Plaster Rock, N.B.

Forty-five nearby homes were evacuated after the derailment at around 7 p.m. Tuesday — the latest in a string of train crashes that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under scrutiny. Five of the derailed cars were carrying crude oil, while four had propane.

The oil, from western Canada, was destined for the Irving refinery in Saint John.

Some of the cars are venting, and there is some crude burning, but the fire is "very controlled," CEO Claude Mongeau said at a Wednesday news conference.

"The fire is our first priority at the moment," he said, adding the company will "step up" if there are impacts to the environment and nearby residents. Mongeau said there were no injuries in the crash.

The Transportation Safety Board said the derailment appears to have been caused by a broken axle near the front of the train, causing an "undesired brake application" which forced a sudden stop. Cars closer to the rear also jumped the track, and investigators say that's where the fire is coming from.

Investigators have yet to probe further, waiting for clearance.

Michael Farkouh, the vice president of safety for CN, said the company was surveying the fire from the air to understand the full scope of the crash.

Most of the 150 displaced residents of Plaster Rock, about 200 km north of Fredericton, were able to take shelter with friends and family, provincial officials said.

Mongeau said it was still too early to say when residents would be allowed back home. Regional Medical Officer of Health Yves Leger said residents should take precautions if heavy smoke begins to fill the air.

"Infants, children, pregnant women, older adults, smokers and people with chronic heart or lung diseases should stay indoors to reduce their exposure to the outdoor air." In the past year, there have been five major crashes involving trains carrying crude oil. In December, a 106-car BNSF freight train went off the tracks in North Dakota. There were no injuries, but the crash caused explosions and hazardous plumes of smoke. Last July, 47 people died when a runaway train derailed and exploded in the heart of Lac Megantic, Que.

Some U.S. politicians are calling for a phase-out or retrofit of old tankers that do not meet current safety standards, and are prone to punctures.

 

When asked if he was concerned about safety issues, New Brunswick Premier David Alward said this derailment shows the province has "a very effective response" to a crisis.

"Goods move every day, whether that be by roads, by rail, by pipelines, by air. There are always risks," he said. 

To mitigate accidents, the province needs to make the right regulations are in place and companies need to operate safely, Alward said.

- with files from Reuters

 


Videos

Photos