North Dakota Train Crash Sparks Health Concerns Following Oil Fire

A catastrophic train derailment involving 18 tanker cars of crude oil occurred on Monday in Casselton, North Dakota, causing an estimated 2,400 residents to evacuate the area due health concerns associated with toxic smoke that travelled miles into the air.  

The train crash took place on Monday afternoon, when a BNSF Railway Company train transporting grain derailed and crashed into another BNSF train carrying crude oil in 18 DOT-111 model tanker cars. The collision caused a massive explosion just outside the town of Casselton.

No one was injured during the actual explosion, but residents claimed the blast shook homes and businesses for miles around the accident site, as the cars of extremely flammable oil ignited said a BNSF spokeswoman.

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The town of Casselton, which consists of roughly 2,400 residents, were ordered to evacuate the area on Monday due to safety concerns from the toxic smoke. Mayor Ed McConnell claimed that dozens of people would have surely been killed if the derailment occurred just minutes before, inside of the town.

While the evacuation order has been lifted and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is on scene investigating the potential cause of the crash, safety concerns continue not only for residents of Casselton, but also for residents of other surrounding towns, due to the large amounts southern winds blowing the toxins.

No cause for the train derailment has been determined as BNSF and NTSB investigators have started analyzing the recorders on the oil trains rear locomotive in efforts to attempt to find some evidence that would indicate what caused the derailment during the last 20 seconds of video taken from the cars camera.

NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt stated it is not clear if the DOT-111 train cars involved in the accident are the newer safer models or the older unmodified version that have had severe scrutiny against them from Congress. In 2008 Congress placed a measure for railroad companies to install both positive train control systems and safer more durable train cars. Critics have claimed the DOT-111 train cars are not durable enough to be carrying such hazardous materials and that the walls are too thin and leave the cars vulnerable when tipping over.

This was at least the fourth major derailment in 2013 where crude oil transportation has caused massive explosion. In November, a train carrying crude oil to the Gulf Coast from North Dakota derailed causing extreme fires. Just a month prior residents of Alberta were evacuated after 13 railcars carrying oil derailed and ignited a blaze. Earlier this year in July, 47 people were killed in Lac-Megantic, Quebec when a runaway train transporting crude oil derailed and exploded.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/–mike–/ cia CC BY 2.0

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