My Current Events Project: Event # 1: CN fuel cars derail, explode west of Edmonton

CN fuel cars derail, explode west of Edmonton

Dozens flee homes as train containing liquefied petroleum gas catches fire

CBC NewsPosted: Oct 19, 2013 7:08 AM MTLast Updated: Oct 19, 2013 11:56 PM MT

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A CN Rail train carrying liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil has derailed and exploded about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton, prompting an evacuation in the tiny community of Gainford. Parkland County Emergency Services says it received a call about the accident involving a westbound train around 1 a.m. MT Saturday. The 134-car, mixed freight train left Edmonton Friday night bound for Vancouver. The Transportation Safety Board says 13 cars — four carrying petroleum crude oil and nine pressurized containers carrying liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) — left the tracks along Highway 16 and Range Road 61. There was one “significant explosion” at the time of the derailment, followed by a “smaller one,” said Carson Mills, a spokesman for Parkland County. Nearby resident Elaine Hughes told CBC’s Laura Osman she woke to her entire trailer shaking and looked out her window to see the entire sky lit up by the flames. After witnessing a fireball burst in the sky, however, she said the explosion quickly died down and she returned to bed. It wasn’t until 9 a.m. local time that officials arrived to tell her to leave her home.
Gainford derailFlames were still burning on the derailed CN rail cars Saturday night. Fire officials said they have little option but to the let the fire burn itself out. (Courtesy: Transportation Safety Board)

Others, like Denise Anderson, said they received notice to leave closer to 3 a.m. “Two fire and rescue guys came and banged on the door and [they] tell me I had to evacuate because there was a train derailment,” she said. “They told me to get dressed and I had to go.” Many residents CBC spoke to said they were worried about pets and other animals left behind. As of Saturday evening, most residents said they were told they would not be able to return home until at least Monday. No injuries are reported and all CN employees have been accounted for.

Fire is still burning

RCMP officers and emergency personnel are on hand and are working with CN and the TSB staff to manage the situation. Fire crews from Parkland County and Yellowhead County, as well as a HAZMAT crew from Edmonton, were also on scene throughout Saturday. According to early reports by Mills, two of the pressurized cars containing liquefied petroleum gas caught fire at first. CBC was told that one car also exploded. Early on, firefighters said the intense heat from the rail cars prevented them from getting close. By mid-day Saturday, Evansburg RCMP reported three cars were on fire while Parkland County Fire Chief Jim Phalen said a fourth had been compromised. Fire officials say they have little choice but to let the fuel burn itself off, resulting in a dark, billowing cloud of smoke that remained hanging over Gainford throughout the day. “As long as we have the fire burning the gas that is being expelled from the pressure vessels, we know where that gas is — and it’s safer just to let it flare until the product is consumed,” said Phalen, estimating the time required for burn-off to be between 24 and 72 hours. Despite the ongoing flames, CN spokesperson Louis-Antoine Paquin said the four crude oil tankers involved are still intact. “CN has deployed a team of emergency responders from our safety and environment risk management operations and other forces,” he said, adding that safety executives are also on site and have reached out to municipal leaders. Paquin said CN will cooperate fully with the TSB’s investigation into the cause of the derailment. Traffic along Highway 16, a major route connecting Edmonton and Jasper, has been rerouted north along Secondary Highway 765, westbound along Secondary Highway 633 and returning southbound on Secondary Highway 757. It is unknown when the highway will re-open, but will likely not be until Monday. Paquin said it is still unknown when the tracks, which also run a VIA rail service, will reopen.

CN apologizes to residents of Gainford

Gainford derailmentSpeaking Saturday night, CN Chief Operating Officer Jim Vena apologized to the residents of Gainford and commended the swift actions of emergency response crews. (CBC)

Speaking at a briefing held Saturday night, Jim Vena, the Chief Operating Officer of CN, apologized to the displaced residents of Gainford, and commended the efforts of emergency responders. “All of us at CN are very much aware of how this incident has disrupted your lives. I regret this very much and again apologize for the inconvenience you are experiencing,” he said. “Within minutes of the derailment, we have had outstanding cooperation and support from the county, its emergency management, staff, the fire department, police, provincial responders and everyone else we have dealt with.” Vena said the cause of the crash is still unknown as TSB investigators have been unable to get close to the wreckage to investigate the cause of the derailment. Electronic records show the train travelling at 35 kilometres per hour at the time it derailed. The track had been recently inspected, said Vena, as was the train prior to leaving Edmonton. When asked about the company’s safety record, Vena said CN was committed to running a safe railroad, and would be conducting its own investigation into the derailment in addition to supporting the TSB’s independent investigation. “All I can say is we operate in a safe manner, day in and day out,” he said. “We move thousands of rail cars and hundreds of trains and we do it in a safe manner — and we need to find out what happened here.” “CN will clean this up, remedy any damage, remediate the location and apply lessons learned as part of our continued efforts to improve safety,” he added. Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Diana McQueen also addressed the media Saturday night. “We are here, first of all, to ensure the incident is contained and to work to make sure the cleanup happens,” she said. She said provincial officials are monitoring the environmental impacts of the derailment, including air quality and water contamination — both of which had been deemed to be not at risk.

State of emergency declared

Speaking Saturday morning, Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec said public safety is his utmost concern. “Certainly this could have been worse, given the recent incident in Lac-Mégantic — that certainly does illustrate the threats to residents living along rail tracks. So we’re thankful it wasn’t of that magnitude.”

However, Shaigec said there was still a concern that another explosion may happen. While emergency crews remain on the scene, the entire area is under a state of emergency.

Gainford DerailA CN Rail train carrying liquefied petroleum gas and crude oil derailed and exploded early Saturday morning about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton.  (Courtesy: RCMP Air 1 helicopter)

The entire community of Gainford — roughly 100 people — has been evacuated, in addition to all residences within about two kilometres of the derailment site. Evacuees were sent to the Entwistle Community Centre, about 20 kilometres from the derailment. Suzanne Merrills, the community development coordinator for the county, said everyone has now been lined up with food, accommodations and other necessities, which are being paid for by the county and CN. “Right now, our priority is to make sure the needs of the residents are met,” said Merrills, who added that many evacuees were able to move in with family or friends. “It’s a nice, rural small community that really bonds together in times of need and really helps to support each other.”

Greenpeace slams Harper over derailment

While it is still unclear what kind of damage the derailment has caused, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Canada has already slammed Harper’s government, alleging it has put Canadians at risk.

“This kind of disaster will become the new normal unless the federal government takes much more effective measures to improve oil transportation safety,” said Mike Hudema, speaking for Greenpeace. “The truth is that the Harper government has become such a cheerleader for the petroleum industry that it is failing in its duty to protect our communities and the environment. “This is the third major derailment in Alberta in the last few months. How many more will it take before Ottawa implements transportation safety regulations that were recommended more than a decade ago?”

My Reflection on Current Event # 1:
S. I see pictures of the derailment and emergency crews and the time range  from 1:26 am to late Saturday to see how long the fires had been burning from 1:26 am. onwards and from what I have read or watched on CBC  they really do not show bias for most of the time but try to report everything fairly and impartially and mainly are they are there to report and not to take a side most of the time on a issue sure. The CBC leaves their feelings about the issue at the door and they are there to do a job not to do a biased commentary and report of the event or issue.
H.  The things that are happening to my feelings are disbelief  and outrage because  my family has a cabin right near the derailment site and how could a  multi-million dollar company not spend enough on making sure that they have enough safety measures and consistently upgrading their railway systems to make sure that these sort of accidents  cannot happen. I am feeling disbelief because of  how could a company not spend enough on making sure that they have enough safety measures in place to make sure that this sort of accident  cannot happen it just does not make any sense how they cannot spend lots of money on improving their railway systems and on their safety systems  so if it is not possible for them to spend a lot of money on their railway systems why can they not spend the money from their profits to upgrade their railway systems and also modernize their safety standards not just to satisfy modern day people but also not to operate at the bare minimum. I guess it does not really surprise me that a multi- million dollar corporation does not really care about safety  because these multi-million dollar corporations are really and truly in the game for THE PROFIT !  I’m sorry but if these corporations gave as much thought about safety as they did about profit, these corporations could still be at the top of their game while also giving a lot of thought to maintaining the safety of the work undertaken by these corporations employees.
O.  As I have stated my family owns a recreation property near the derailment site so this event is directly related to my life because me and my family did not go to our family’s cabin  on  the weekend not because of the derailment but because our family has a severe cold rough us like flies right now but after the derailment that meant we were definitely not going to the cabin and not that would not have been an enjoyable weekend anyways because the emergency crews were  directing the Yellowhead traffic right behind our cabin and when we go to our cabin it is to escape the mania of the city but it just wouldn’t be worth it to come to our cabin only to have the mania of the city roaring right behind our cabin and also because my parents had feared that there might have been noxious gases and I do not think my family would have appreciated being woken up at 3 in the morning to be told “You have to leave the house immediately.”  I mean for one thing now because of this issue we might not even be going up to our family’s recreation property  this coming weekend because we are not sure of what the situation is like up there.
W. I believe why we face these problems is due to these multi-million dollar companies not doing enough to spend that  2 million dollars to upgrade their safety measures and their systems to fit modern day standards. I also believe why we face these problems  is because  these multi-million dollar companies not providing the funding for what I have stated in the above sentence because if the company does not provide the funding for these upgrades and safety measures to be put in place how many accidents like this one will we have to endure before the company opens their eyes to the fact that, yeah maybe spending some of the money out of your profit pocket is a good idea to improve the quality of safety and upgrades even though it may cut down on your profits.
E.  In the span of January to May of this year there have been 242 train derailments  (Non main-track train derailments and main track derailments combined)  this year and out of those 242 train derailments 63 of those derailments have occurred in Alberta and of those 63, 16 derailments (Non main-track train derailments and main track derailments combined)  involved dangerous goods( e.g. liquefied petroleum). So these accidents should be definitely a wake up a call to CN and CPR, especially the derailment that I am covering in this post because it shows that these two multi-million dollar companies do not / want to spend the money on safety and upgrading all sections of both of their railway systems as it will take a slice of their profits to do so.
D.  What can we do about the issue is that we can have stricter safety regulations to ensure that if an accident like this ever happens again we can combat it to allow these companies to take full responsibility for their negligence to pay attention to safety before but if I were them I would treat this like a wake-up call so they do not have to deal with an issue like this ever again companies do not / want to spend the money on safety and upgrading all sections of both of their railway systems as it will take a slice of their profits to do so and so what if they lose a bit of the profits it is going to the greater good for the company and their employees as well so it is ,in my opinion a fair trade because the company gets to keep some of the profits while also benefiting their employees because they now know their job is now secure from harm.