January 8, 2014

A Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derailed and caught fire on Tuesday in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, the latest in a string of train accidents that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under heavy scrutiny.

There were no reports of injuries, but about 45 nearby homes were evacuated when the train derailed near the village of Plaster Rock at about 7 p.m. local time, according to local officials.

There were unconfirmed reports of an explosion, but Sharon DeWitt, the village’s emergency measures co-ordinator said she was not aware of any blast at the site.

Vancouver Sun:

"CN spokesman Jim Feeny said 16 cars derailed near the village of Plaster Rock and of those, 15 are toward the end of the train and in the area of the fire. Four are carrying propane and another four are carrying crude oil, Feeny said.

It was unclear how many of the cars were burning because emergency personnel were keeping well back as a precaution, he said.

"I cannot confirm if those cars are actually on fire due to the caution being expressed by the emergency responders," he said in an interview.

The train's engineer and conductor, the only people on the train, were not hurt in the derailment, he said, adding that it's unclear what caused the train to leave the tracks.

"We are deploying full emergency response ... from Moncton, Toronto and Montreal," Feeny said. "Their priority is to protect the safety of the people and the environment."

From CBC News:

"The Canadian Red Cross has dispatched supplies and a team of eight disaster volunteers to assist local authorities at the evacuation centre.

This is a precautionary step as the area outside of Plaster Rock where the derailment occurred is sparsely populated so the number of people impacted by evacuation is small and most of them will likely choose to stay temporarily with family or friends elsewhere in the community," said Bill Lawlor, Canadian Red Cross director of disaster management for New Brunswick.

"However, should any residents require a place to stay including through the night, or should circumstances change unexpectedly, our team is bringing cots, blankets and other essentials to properly manage a shelter."

The train originated in Toronto and was headed to Moncton, New Brunswick, which is about 300 km (186 miles) east of the site of the accident, according to Feeny.

A CBC investigation into rail safety revealed that Canadian National Railway did not report to authorities more than 1,800 derailments and accidents, including 44 on key rail arteries.

One of those derailments occurred in Plaster Rock, which was one of two incidents that prompted the Transportation Safety Board to seek a summons ordering CN to turn over all accident records.

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