|This aerial photo shows derailed train cars burning in Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, Canada, Wednesday.|
Of the 17 cars that derailed late Tuesday in New Brunswick province, five contain crude oil and four contain liquefied petroleum gas, officials said. Later Wednesday, the Canadian National Railway said two of the cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas and one car carrying crude oil were on fire.
“It is contained, but it is evolving,” said Claude Mongeau, the chief executive of CN.
The derailment in a sparsely populated region, roughly 32 kilometers from the U.S. border and northern Maine, again raised concerns about the increasing use of rail to transport oil throughout North America. In July, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, when a train carrying crude oil derailed.
A series of recent derailments in North America have worried both officials and residents close to rail lines. On Dec. 30, an oil train derailed and exploded in North Dakota, causing the evacuation of a nearby town but no injuries.
The train’s brakes came on unexpectedly, Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said based on preliminary information from the rail company and police.
“Preliminary reports were that the train was proceeding, and while proceeding experienced what we call an undesired brake application,” said Daniel Holbrook, a manager with the safety board. Holbrook also said the crew found a broken axle.
Andrew Simpson, 30, was playing cards with his uncle Tuesday evening when the train in New Brunswick went off the tracks less than 1.6 kilometers away. “The table just kind of rumbled, and out the window went a real bright orange,” he said. “We looked out and the whole train yard was on fire. We panicked and called (emergency services).”
New Brunswick Premier David Alward said there was minimal impact on the environment.
Sharon DeWitt, emergency measures coordinator for the nearby community of Plaster Rock, said no one was killed or injured. She said people were evacuated within a 2-kilometer radius of the fire.
Officials said the regularly scheduled freight train ran into trouble around 7 p.m. Tuesday about 150 kilometers northwest of Fredericton.
Canadian National Railway spokesman Mark Hallman said two of the crude train cars came from Northern Alberta and three came from southwestern Manitoba and were destined for an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick.
DeWitt said the train left the tracks about 5 kilometers from the village in a wooded area. She said there is one road near the site, which includes a number of homes.
The train‘s engineer and conductor, the only people on the train, were not hurt, Canadian National Railway spokesman Jim Feeny said. Both have provided statements, but he would not give details.
In 2011, around 68,000 carloads of fuel oils and crude petroleum moved along Canadian rail lines, according to Statistics Canada. In 2012, that rose to nearly 113,000. Between January and September of 2013 -- the most recent data available -- some 118,000 carloads had been shipped via rail.
In November, the federal government required rail companies to tell municipalities when they transport dangerous goods through their communities, after provinces and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities demanded more transparency.