CN train derailment: petroleum cars catch fire in Saskatchewan

CN train derailment in Saskatchewan caused petroleum distillate to ignite, forcing about 50 people to evacuate from a nearby community. The CN train derailment comes in the wake of recent high-profile oil train accidents.

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press/AP
A Canadian National Railway Company freight train carrying dangerous goods derailed and caught fire near the town of Wadena, Saskatchewan, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Saskatchewan government said the CN train derailment happened near the small community of Clair, about 13 miles west of Wadena, which is being evacuated.

A Canadian National Railway Company freight train carrying flammable goods derailed in central Saskatchewan on Tuesday and caught fire.

The Saskatchewan government said the derailment happened near the small community of Clair. About 50 people were evacuated.

Provincial officials said hazardous materials crews were en route. CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the fire is coming from petroleum distillate, which spilled from two of the derailed cars. Petroleum distillates are often made into diesel, kerosene, heating oil and jet fuel.

"The cars of concern contain petroleum distillate. They spilled and that is the source of the fire," Feeny said.

Feeny said the crew is not injured. He said the train was made up of three locomotives pulling 100 cars and that 26 of them derailed Tuesday morning. He said 60 of the cars were empty and forty were carrying goods including six carrying dangerous goods. Besides the two carrying petroleum distillate two were carrying hydrochloric acid and two were carrying caustic soda.

The train originated in Winnipeg, Manitoba and was traveling to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

A witness told a local radio station that the flames are at least 30 meters (100 feet) high.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board said it is deploying a team of investigators to the site.

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Train derailments are more of a concern in Canada after a runaway oil train exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic just across the U.S.-Canada border in July 2013, killing 47 people. That oil train was carrying oil from Bakken crude from North Dakota. Officials have said Bakken's sweet, light crude may be more flammable than traditional, heavier forms of crude oil because it can ignite at a lower temperature.

Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said she was aware of the Saskatchewan derailment and said her government has done "tremendous work on rail safety."

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