Dozens of people displaced by Alberta train derailment as tankers burn
Published Sunday, October 20, 2013 7:16AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 20, 2013 11:34PM EDT
As authorities conducted a controlled burn at the site of a freight train derailment near Gainford, Alta., an evacuation order for about 100 residents remained in effect Sunday night.
Late Sunday, CN Rail began a controlled burn of six train cars containing liquefied petroleum gas.
Company spokesperson Warren Chandler said Transport Canada, Alberta Environment and officials in Parkland County agreed that it was “the safest and most effective way to allow the residents to return to their homes as quickly as possible.”
The train derailment occurred early Saturday morning near the small community located 80 kilometres west of Edmonton. Thirteen of the 130 cars on the train came off the tracks around 1 a.m.
Four cars carrying crude oil remained intact, but three cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas caught fire, CN said.
The surrounding area was evacuated after two explosions were reported. Officials said Sunday that affected residents may not be able to return home for up to two more days.
Firefighters had pulled back from the scene to let the fire burn itself out.
CN crews worked overnight to distance the cars carrying crude oil and those carrying liquefied petroleum, CN said in a statement released on Sunday.
The company also said it is working with regulatory agencies and local authorities to devise a plan for residents to return home.
While Parkland County Fire Chief Jim Phelan said “there is no significant damage to any values at risk,” Gainford resident Jeanette Hall said her property was severely damaged.
“We have 146 acres and half of it has burned to the ground. And our house, the siding has melted off,” Hall told CTV News. “I don’t know what damage was inside because we ran out. I don’t understand how they can say there's no damage.”
Yellowhead Highway remains closed near Gainford and detours are still in effect.
There were no injuries in the derailment. The train was travelling from Edmonton to Vancouver.
Despite this being the third CN derailment within a month, Jim Vena, the company's chief operating officer, has defended the CN's safety record, saying rail remains a safe mode of transporting materials.
“I want to make it clear we are committed to running a safe railroad. Unfortunately, incidents happen, but we are working hard to reduce them as much as we can,” Vena said. “Last year was the safest year in CN’s history, and despite last night, we are still running at about the same incident rate as last year.”
CN said no issues were found when the tracks were tested last week and train inspections performed on Friday.
CN spokesman Mark Hallman said: “The vast majority of commodities, such as dangerous commodities, that are transported from origin to destination, more than 99 per cent reach destination without any accidental release.”
NDP MP Olivia Chow said more train inspections need to be performed, and braking systems need to be mandated.
A statement released by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt’s office said the federal government has invested $100 million in rail safety, and has enforced higher fines for companies that violate safety regulations.
With a report from CTV’s Alberta Bureau Chief Janet Dirks and files from The Canadian Press