Fiery train derailment in Minnesota prompts evacuations
Published 9:06 am Thursday, March 30, 2023
RAYMOND — A train hauling ethanol and corn syrup derailed and caught fire in Minnesota early Thursday and nearby residents were ordered to evacuate their homes, authorities said.
The BNSF train derailed in the town of Raymond, roughly 100 miles (161 kilometers) west of Minneapolis, about 1 a.m., according to a statement from Kandiyohi County Sheriff Eric Tollefson.
This latest derailment happened as the nation has been increasingly focused on railroad safety after last month’s fiery Norfolk Southern derailment that prompted evacuations in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border.
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Residents in that town of about 5,000 remain concerned about lingering health impacts after officials decided to release and burn toxic chemicals to prevent a tank car explosion. State and federal officials maintain that no harmful levels of toxic chemicals have been found in the air or water there, but residents remain uneasy.
The major freight railroads have said they plan to add about 1,000 more trackside detectors nationwide to help spot equipment problems, but federal regulators and members of Congress have proposed additional reforms they want the railroads to make to prevent future derailments.
BNSF said in a statement that 22 cars derailed with four catching fire, but that no injuries were reported due to the accident. It wasn’t immediately clear how many cars that derailed were carrying ethanol.
“The main track is blocked and an estimated time for reopening the line is not available,” according to the statement from BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent. “The cause of the incident is under investigation.”
Homes in an area 1/2 mile (0.8 kilometers) around the site were evacuated, according to Tollefson, and residents were taken to a shelter in nearby Prinsburg.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN that about 14 cars were carrying hazardous materials. BNSF said the only hazardous material on board was ethanol.
“We’ve been in touch with the governor,” Buttigieg said, and Environmental Protection Agency officials were en route to the site “given the hazardous material situation.”
Gov. Tim Walz said he would visit the site of the derailment with state emergency management officials Thursday morning.
The Federal Railroad Administration, the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are all responding to the derailment, but an NTSB spokesman said that agency hasn’t yet determined
Thursday morning whether it will conduct a full investigation into the cause of the crash.