A CSX Corp train that was transporting crude oil has burst into flames and derailed in the town of Lynchburg, Virginia, reports Reuters. Fifteen cars of the mile long train traveling from Chicago to Virginia derailed at around 2:30 PM ET and resulted in crude oil spilling into the James River. Photos and videos from the site of the accident showed high flames erupting from the carriages of the train and a plume of thick smoke rising from them. As of 4 pm, three cars from the train were still on fire as firefighters struggled to contain the inferno.
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While officials have confirmed that there have been no injuries or loss of life to anyone due to the train accident, around 300 to 350 people staying in a half-mile radius have been evacuated – to be on the safer side. Meanwhile, Lynchburg city officials were seen asking motorists and pedestrians to avoid the area.
According to director of communications for Lynchburg, JoAnn Martin, a large quantity of crude oil leaking from the train carriages have managed to reach the James river and is likely to reach Chesapake Bay till where the James River runs. She added that while firefighters were trying to put out the blaze in the train, there is chance that they would let the fire burn itself out.
The CSX train derailment happened not far from office buildings in downtown Lynchburg which is a mid-sized city with a population of 77,000. A witness to the incident told Reuters that flames from the derailment reached as high as the 19th floor of his office building. He added that the derailment “sounded like a tornado.”
The Department of Transportation has in the meantime decided to send Federal Railroad Administration inspectors to the scene of the train crash. Their job of finding the cause of this latest train accident becomes more important considering the fact that there have been several accidents of trains carrying hazardous material in the span of the last year. In the last major train accident, 47 people were killed after a runaway train derailed and exploded in to flames at Lac-Megantic, Quebec. Meanwhile, a video of the same train, a day before it burst into flames has been uploaded to YouTube as well.
At this time, the exact cause of the derailment of the train and the subsequent fire have not been ascertained. A CSX statement said that it was “responding fully” to the derailment with emergency personnel, safety and environmental experts.
Meanwhile, this latest incident of a CSX freight train carrying crude oil derailing and catching fire has prompted Lawmakers and rail officials asking for tougher regulations to be put in place that apply to carriers transporting hazardous and flammable liquids across North America. One of the proposals of suggested to improve the safety during the transportation of these materials was to use more robust tanker cars.
[Image via WBAL TV]