Saturday, October 19, 2013

State of Emergency declared after Oil and Gas train derailment in western Alberta

Portions of a small town located halfway between Edmonton and Edson were evacuated on Saturday, that as fire fighters battled a blaze from the derailment of thirteen train cars carrying liquid propane gas and petroleum crude oil.

The derailment, which took place in the early hours of Saturday morning near Gainford Alberta, produced a fireball which shot into the sky, closing the Yellowhead highway the main east - west route through the northern portion of Alberta and British Columbia.

The train operated by Canadian National consisted of 158 cars and was destined for Vancouver. It was travelling westbound through Gainford, when the thirteen cars jumped the tracks around 1 AM.

The most recent reports from the scene had three of the cars containing gas leaking and on fire, with concerns of a larger explosion and fire still feared.

The area was placed under a state of emergency shortly after the derailment, with an evacuation order issued for those in a two-kilomtre radius of the derailment scene.

The Transportation Safety Board has been dispatched to the scene to begin their investigation.

The Gainford incident, calls to mind the tragedy in Lac Megantic, Quebec earlier this year, that derailment and explosion claimed 47 lives and created a wide swath of destruction in the scenic Quebec community.

The issue of oil shipments by rail has become a controversial discussion point since that Lac Megantic incident, with many communities seeking better safety measures and the desire to learn more about the  increase in numbers of those shipments.

The topic of increased rail safety measures was recently raised by The Federation of Canadian Municipalaities and was mentioned as part of the Conservative Government's Speech from the Throne. The mention of rail safety can be found from the speech document on pages 15 and 16.

The subject of rail safety is one of note for Northern British Columbia, as there has been an increase in the interest in the Oil by rail prospects to the North Coast,  part of the ongoing dialogue over the
controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway proposal.

In the past, Prince Rupert has been mentioned as a possible terminus for both a liquid propane terminal and an oil terminal that would be served by oil by rail options.

This latest incident involving the shipment of both of those commodities through Gainford, should serve to reintroduce those discussions and the impact that those plans may have on communities, not only on the North Coast,  but across Northern British Columbia.

Some background on the State of Emergency in Gainford can be found below.

Edmonton Journal-- Huge fireball streaks across Yellowhead after train derailment west of Edmonton
CBC-- CN Fuel cars derail, explode west of Edmonton
Globe and Mail-- Train carrying oil, propane derails west of Edmonton
National Post-- Alberta community evacuated after train carrying oil and gas derails
Edmonton Sun-- CN Train carrying crude oil derails near Edmonton

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