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Tuesday October 22, 2013 MYT 3:52:35 AM
Tuesday October 22, 2013 MYT 3:53:33 AM
by louise egan
Investigators survey the site of a train derailment near the hamlet of Gainford, west of Edmonton October 20, 2013. REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber
(Reuters) - Burning rail cars from a derailed Canadian train are taking longer to burn out than Canadian National Railway (CN) expected, closing the operator's main line to the Pacific coast and keeping 100 people from their homes.
The derailment in the province of Alberta, a reminder of a deadly accident in Quebec in July that killed 47 people, happened early on Saturday morning near the little settlement of Gainford, which was evacuated.
No one was hurt, but 13 of the mixed freight train's 134 cars derailed and three cars containing highly flammable liquefied petroleum gas, also known as propane, burst into flames. Unlike the disaster in the town of Lac-Magentic, Quebec, the latest accident took place in open country.
CN punctured holes in the remaining cars containing propane to speed up the burning process and had expected the gas to be burned off by Monday morning, allowing residents who had been evacuated to return home. But by late Sunday the cars still contained some propane and the railway called off the operation, Warren Chandler, its senior manager of public and government affairs said.
"After the controlled burn last night, we have left the cars to vent overnight and are now assessing the next steps," he told a news conference.
The accident has brought rail safety and fuel transportation regulations back to the top of Canada's agenda, especially as it comes so soon after the Lac-Megantic disaster, in which a runaway crude oil train derailed and exploded in the centre of the Quebec lakeside town.
Canadian energy producers are increasingly relying on rail to transport crude oil and other energy products due to pipeline
CN said the derailment could cause delays of 48 hours for customers seeking to ship goods between Vancouver and Edmonton, although "a portion" of shipments were being detoured.
The accident came at a time when Western Canadian grain handlers, such as Richardson International Limited, Viterra and Cargill Ltd, are already struggling to move a record breaking harvest from country elevators to ports, including two in British Columbia.
"On a line as substantial as that, (the derailment) is going to affect grain movement in some way," said Wade Sobkowich, executive director of the Western Grain Elevator Association.
The rail cars that caught fire in the Alberta accident were not the same type as those that exploded in Lac-Megantic, which has been identified as needing reinforcement to help prevent leaks.
Canada's Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident, said the tanker cars were the DOT-112J model rather than the DOT-111 type that exploded in Lac-Megantic.
Chandler could not say how the site would be made safe, or how long this might take.
(Additional reporting by Susan Taylor, Randall Palmer and Rod Nickel; Editing by Janet Guttsman and David Brunnstrom)
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