Update on Canadian National Railway Tank Car Explosions and Fire in Gainford
The CN derailment and train wreck at Gainford, Alberta is worse than originally reported.
Thirteen of a 134-car CN train, travelling from Edmonton to Vancouver, derailed early the morning of October 19, causing 2 explosions and a huge fireball that lit up the night sky. The Transportation Safety Board said 4 tank cars carrying crude oil and 9 pressurized tank cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas (propane) fell off the tracks. The situation is so volatile, firefighters have backed off and are letting the fire burn itself out, which may take up to 72 hours (CBC News). In the early stages of the fire, the intense heat prevented firefighters from getting close to the train.
The entire area is under a state of emergency – all approximately 100 residents of Gainford have been evacuated as well as all people within about 2 km of the derailment site. Residents have been told they will likely not be allowed to return to their homes until October 22, at the earliest. Emergency personnel at the scene include: Parkland County firefighters, Yellowhead County firefighters and a HAZMAT crew from Edmonton.
Because the derailment occurred so close to the main highway through the community, Yellowhead Highway No. 16 has been closed and may not re-open until October 23.
The Alberta Environment Minister said provincial officials are monitoring the environmental impacts of the derailment including air quality and water contamination. At this time, the extent of any spill of petroleum products and environmental damage have not been disclosed.
The federal NDP Transportation Critic, Olivia Chow, said, “The latest train derailment, fire and evacuation tell the Conservative government that vague promise without a clear work plan is not enough.”
A Greenpeace representative in Edmonton has said, “This kind of disaster will become the new normal unless the federal government takes much more effective measures to improve oil transportation safety. The truth is that the Harper government has become such a cheerleader for the petroleum industry that it is failing in its duty to protect our communities and the environment. This is the third major derailment in Alberta in the last few months. How many more will it take before Ottawa implements transportation safety regulations that were recommended more than a decade ago?”
For information on hundreds of additional CN derailments, spills, fires and fines, see CN Railway Derailments, Other Accidents and Incidents.