An oil train derailment of a CSX train laden with North Dakota crude oil in West Virginia Monday ignited a series of immense explosions that forced the evacuation of two towns and prompted Governor Earl Tomblin to issue a state of emergency.
The train was hauling 109 cars loaded with oil to Yorktown, Va., when it derailed for unknown reasons at 1:20 p.m. about 33 miles southeast of Charleston, W.Va. State police at the scene reported that an estimated 10 cars exploded in half-hour intervals, one car heating up and eventually igniting the next, in a chain reaction. Two of the cars fell into the Kanawha River.
The explosions also destroyed a nearby house, but no deaths were reported in connection with the derailment. One person was being treated for fume inhalation. The explosions prompted officials to evacuate a 1-mile square radius around the crash site, an area that encompasses the towns of Adena Village and Boomer Bottom. More than 1,000 people have been displaced.
Efforts to stop the blaze were hindered by heavy snow and extremely cold temperatures, and assessments of the environmental damage have not been completed. As of Tuesday afternoon, several of the cars were still burning.
The derailment occurred less than 2oo miles west of Lynchburg, Va., where another CSX train bound for the same Yorktown oil depot derailed and exploded last April. Monday’s fuel train blast came just days after a Canadian National Railways train derailed and exploded in a wooded area of northern Ontario, spilling and burning highly toxic oil sand bitumen from Alberta.
The latest CSX fuel train crash also comes amid heightened criticism of oil car safety, an issue that was largely sparked by an oil train derailment and explosion that killed 47 people in the town of Lac- Mégantic, Quebec, in 2013.
According to Reuters, the CSX trains involved in Monday’s derailment were newer CPC 1232 model train cars, which are supposed to be safer and less prone to puncture than the older DOT-111 model cars that CSX used until recently.