A train carrying crude oil on the Alabama rail line exploded on Friday. Twenty cars from the 90-car train derailed and 11 were left burning. The burning cars threw flames up to 300 feet high into the air.
The train’s cars are being left to burn out, which can take 24 hours or more. Fortunately no injuries were reported in the explosion. Had there been any passengers or passers-by, the situation could have been much more serious.
The crude oil on the train originated in North Dakota. It is highly likely that the oil it was transporting was the same kind of light crude oil which was carried by the Canadian train which derailed in the summer in a ball of flames killing 47 people.
The Alabama rail line explosion is being blamed by officials on human error. They are saying that the driver of the train failed to brake sufficiently on an incline. Other than that, it isn’t known at this stage what caused Friday’s incident.
Elena McGovern, a Global Energy and Natural Resources analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington, said: “It will provide very clear evidence of the potential risks for environmental groups and others opposed to the growth of crude by rail, and will likely increase pressure to tighten regulations.”
According to Reuters, if the tanks of the train’s cars were full with the oil there would have been around 65,000 barrels on board at the time of the explosion. The train was en-route from Amory, Mississippi to Walnut Hill in Florida.
According to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, booms were put in place in the wetlands – where the explosion occurred – in order to contain any potential oil spill.
A spokesperson from the Genesee & Wyoming company said about the Alabama rail line explosion: “We don’t have a cause yet, that will be determined with the investigation.”