In its second oil-train accident this year, CSX said 15 cars of a
train traveling from Chicago to Virginia derailed at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
Fire that erupted on three of the cars was extinguished several
hours later, the company said.
The three cars, each weighing 100 tons, fell down an embankment into
the river and were still leaking oil on Wednesday evening, city
mayor Michael Gillette told Reuters.
There were no injuries, and the nearly 350 residents who were
evacuated earlier in the day were allowed to return to their homes,
(Click here for a map of location of the
This is the sixth fiery derailment to occur in North America since a
runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, derailed and exploded,
killing 47 people last July. Another CSX train carrying crude oil
derailed in Philadelphia in January, nearly toppling over a bridge.
The latest incident, a short distance from office buildings in the
city of 77,000, brought more calls from environmentalists for
stricter regulations on shipping crude oil by rail.
Containing the oil spill was the city's biggest concern as cleanup
efforts began, Gillette added. The river flows into Chesapeake Bay.
CSX was sending a crew to clean up the wreckage on Wednesday
evening, and city officials expected the company to remove the
derailed tank cars by the end of business on Thursday.
Kathy Bedsworth, owner of the Carriage House Inn bed and breakfast
in Lynchburg, the commercial hub of central Virginia, told Reuters
that flames streaked as high as 60 feet.
"There was black, black, black smoke and huge billows of flames. The
flames were taller than the buildings," she in a telephone interview
after heading to the scene of the incident five blocks from her
National Transportation Safety Board investigators were already on
site. The U.S. Department of Transportation said it was sending
Federal Railroad Administration inspectors to the scene, and the
Environmental Protection Agency said an official was heading there
to help the state monitor air quality.
The origin of the cargo, the train's final destination and the cause
of the accident were not known. One of the only oil facilities to
the east of Lynchburg is a converted refinery in Yorktown, now a
storage depot run by Plains All American. The company did not
immediately reply to queries.
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With more trains hauling crude and flammable liquids across North
America, U.S. regulators are expected soon to propose new rules for
more robust tank cars to replace older models; Canadian authorities
did so last week.
"With this event, regulators could try to expedite the process, and
they'll likely err on the side of the more costly safety
requirements," said Michael Cohen, vice president for research at
Barclays in New York.
Tougher rules could raise costs for companies that lease tank cars
and boost business for rail-car makers.
Residents across the country have voiced concern about oil trains,
often a mile long, passing near their communities, particularly in
New York and the Pacific Northwest. Derailments have also occurred
in North Dakota and Alabama.
In Virginia, environmental groups including the Sierra Club and the
Chesapeake Bay Foundation have opposed expansion of crude-by-rail
shipments through the region to the Yorktown terminal, which can
handle 140,000 barrels per day. CSX's route through populated areas
like Lynchburg and its proximity to the James River have been
mentioned as special concerns.
In January, CSX Chief Executive Michael Ward told analysts the
company planned to boost crude-by-rail shipments by 50 percent this
year. He said the Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad was working
with U.S. regulators to address safety concerns in light of recent
derailments and fires.
(Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan, Joshua Schneyer, Anna Driver,
Patrick Rucker, Josephine Mason, Ian Simpson; editing by David
Gregorio and Prudence Crowther)
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