In the second significant oil-train incident in three days, a CSX Corp train hauling North Dakota crude oil derailed in West Virginia on Monday. Cars caught fire, a house was destroyed, and two towns had to be evacuated.
Robert Jelacic of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said one or two of the train’s cars plunged into the Kanawha River, and “a couple are burning,” Reuters reports. Jelacic said there were no injuries or deaths, but one person was being treated for potential fume inhalation.
The train was hauling 109 cars from North Dakota to an oil depot in the coastal town of Yorktown, Virginia. Greg Duckworth, first sergeant with the West Virginia State Police told Reuters that nine or 10 train cars exploded at intervals of about every half hour. According to Reuters, a similar sequence occurred in other derailments over the past year and a half, with the fire in one car heating the gases in the next nearest car, causing it to ignite. Duckworth said all but 14 of the cars on the train had been pulled out of harm’s way.
A one-mile-wide area around the derailment site was being evacuated, Reuters reports. Heavy snow and frigid temperatures were hindering efforts to deal with the incident. West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency for Kanawha and Fayette counties. The derailment occurred 33 miles southeast of Charleston, the state capital, less than 200 miles west of Lynchburg, Virginia, where another CSX train also bound terminal in Yorktown derailed and erupted in flames last April.
A boom in oil shipments by rail and derailments across North America have put heightened focus on the dangers of transporting oil by rail. Forth-seven people were killed in 2013 in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded. The U.S. Transportation Department has proposed adding an extra 1/8th inch of steel to most existing oil train tank shells. New tank cars would be manufactured with thicker hulls, according to Reuters.