GAINFORD, Alberta – Firefighters battling a major blaze after a Canadian National tanker train derailed west of Edmonton, Alberta, on Saturday have decided to withdraw and wait for the flames to burn themselves out. No injuries were reported.
The latest derailment has raised more questions about rail safety that became a major issue after a runaway oil train derailed in a Quebec town in July, triggering explosions that killed 47 people.
Canadian National spokesman Louis-Antoine Paquin said 13 cars – four carrying petroleum crude oil and nine loaded with liquified petroleum gas – came off the tracks around 1 a.m. Saturday in the hamlet of Gainford, about 50 miles from Edmonton. Three cars began leaking and caught fire.
With no further explosions expected from the 13 cars, withdrawing the firefighters was the safest thing to do, said Parkland County fire chief Jim Phelan. Parkland County includes Gainford.
“This fire needs to be extinguished by consuming the product,” Phelan said.
About 100 people from the village of Gainford were evacuated.
“It was a huge boom and the house started shaking,” said Devon Cadwell, 15, who lives on a ranch just outside Gainford.
The train was travelling from Edmonton to Vancouver, British Columbia, Paquin said.
The Transportation Safety Board said it is sending investigators to the scene.
Greenpeace Canada warned that train accidents such as Saturday’s derailment in Alberta will become the “new normal” unless the government tightens safety rules for shipping dangerous goods by rail.
Keith Stewart, the environmental organization’s climate and energy campaign coordinator, said the federal government has taken some steps since July’s devastating derailment in Quebec, but not enough to mitigate the risks.