Reuters is reporting that an oil train derailed in Alabama earlier today resulting in a huge explosion that sent flames 300 feet into the sky. No injuries are reported so far. Early accounts say that 20 cars derailed and 11 were still on fire as of 3 pm Eastern time.
Oil train fires can be so dangerous that emergency responders are often unable to extinguish the blazes. Earlier this year, an oil train derailed in Quebec, killing 47 people in the resulting explosion. About two weeks ago, an oil-bearing train derailed and exploded in rural Alberta, forcing an evacuation but not claiming any lives. In Alabama, emergency crews have also apparently decided to let the flames burn out, which could take 24 hours.
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The trains were reportedly carrying Bakken oil on a Genesee & Wyoming train. (A local Fox station is reporting that the train is part of the Gulf Coast Short Line Railroad.) According to many reports, the fire has completely consumed a trestle over a slough.
There’s a direct Northwest connection to the events in Alabama:
- Genesee & Wyoming is the same firm that owns the spur rail lines that would deliver Bakken oil to the three oil port terminals proposed at the Port of Grays Harbor.
- Oil trains carrying the same type of oil—from the Bakken formation in western North Dakota—regularly travel through downtown Seattle and many other major population centers in the Northwest. Mishaps like the one in Alabama today raise a serious question: should we worry about the exploding death trains in our midst?
Fox has some very sobering images of the accident scene. ABC News is reporting that three cars exploded and that 12 are burning. Aerial footage of the scene clearly shows oil in the water of the slough.