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Another Fiery Derailment Hits Booming Crude-by-Rail Business

Latest accident strikes in New Brunswick

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A CN train carrying crude oil and propane derailed and caught fire in the Canadian province of New Brunswick on Tuesday, the latest in series of fiery accidents to hit the booming crude-by-rail industry.

The train originated in Toronto and was headed eastward towards Moncton, New Brunswick when 16 of the 122 cars derailed around 7 PM near the village of Plaster Rock in northwestern New Brunswick.

According to CN spokesperson Jim Feeny, four of the derailed cars were carrying propane and another four were carrying crude oil.

“On our balcony, we can just see flames. Every now and then, there’s a huge fireball, as if there was an explosion,” Global News Canada reports Plaster Rock resident Carol Jarvis as saying. 

“There’s several sort of fireworks, explosions there now. We saw there was in fact a fairly large fire,” Jarvis said.

The fire burned throughout the night and into Wednesday morning.

"The biggest concern is the propane cars," Plaster Rock Fire Chief Tim Corbin told CBC News. "That's our biggest concern because if they happen to explode, we're looking at major damage."

Homes were evacuated in the immediate area, and officials are reporting no injuries at this time.

Just over a week ago, a fire and explosion rocked the town of Casselton, N.D. when a train carrying crude oil derailed after colliding with another train. The last six months saw two other notable derailment disasters—one in Alabama a when a train carrying crude derailed, and the Lac-Mégantic, Quebec explosion and derailment that left nearly 50 people dead and environmental disaster.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said on Tuesday, just hours before the Plaster Rock derailment,  that the string of accidents necessitates urgent action, and urged the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to hold a hearing on the safety of the rail cars used in the transportation of dangerous materials across the nation.

"This was not the first incident of its type, and I fear, not the last," DeFazio said of the Casselton derailment and explosion. "It’s beyond irresponsible to ignore. The combination of unsafe rail cars, mixed with exceptionally dangerous oil, is a recipe for disaster. These trains travel thousands of miles through our country, including directly through big cities. Do we really want to wait for a major incident with mass casualties in the U.S. before someone takes action? I don’t think so."

Despite the series of disasters, however, industry analysts foresee no end to the growing practice of oil by rail.


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