Train Derailment: New Brunswick Area Evacuated as Rail Cars Burn

Thursday, 09 Jan 2014 07:51 AM

By Michael Mullins

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A train carrying crude oil and propane derailed and caught fire in New Brunswick, Canada on Tuesday night. There were no injuries, however, 150 residents from the surrounding area were evacuated as a precaution.

A subsequent fire caused the train to burn throughout the night. The accident, which involved 17 cars on the railway's main line, is the latest in a string of derailments that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under scrutiny, Canadian National Chief Executive Claude Mongeau said at a news conference, Reuters reported.

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Of the 17 cars involved in the accident, five were carrying crude oil from western Canada, while four were carrying propane gas, according to Mongeau.

"At this point, the issue is contained, but of course things are evolving and we will be addressing the situation with the greatest possible safety," Mongeau said, adding that CN can reroute trains through alternate lines.

Mongeau did not say what the damage to the other cars was.

"The exact sequence of events has yet to be determined," Transportation Safety Board (TSB) official Dan Holbrook added at the conference.

The derailment was caused by an "undesired brake application" — a term used to describe the application of emergency brakes in response to a problem, TSB spokesman John Cottreau added, Reuters reported.

"As soon as the connection between two cars is separated, is broken, trains go into emergency braking," Cottreau said, adding the agency didn't yet know why it happened in this case.

Of the 17 cars involved in the derailment, one car was reportedly found away from the others, toward the front of the train with a broken axle.

When asked by Reuters if the axle failure was responsible for the "undesired brake application" that led to the derailment, Holbrook said he did not want to speculate.

Though the cause of the accident is different, Tuesday's derailment follows a series of train wrecks involving the transportation of oil, such as a significantly more severe accident last July. A train carrying light crude from North Dakota's Bakken region exploded inside the Quebec town of Lac Megantic, killing 47.

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