A train carrying fuel oil, fertilizer, methanol derailed in southeast Mississippi Friday morning, forcing a local evacuation, officials said.
There was no fire or explosion, but 50 people living within a half-mile radius were evacuated, and a nearby highway was shut down as a precaution. “They’ve got these spills pretty much contained and secured, and we’re working on starting the cleanup process at this point,” local sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith said from the scene. “Hopefully we can get everything cleaned up this afternoon and get people in their homes tonight.”
The train — owner and operated by Canadian National Railway Company — was running from from Jackson, Mississippi to Mobile, Alabama, when it derailed near a mobile home park outside the town of New Augusta around 9am Friday morning. Various reports state the pileup involved anywhere from 18 tot 21 cars, and that four to eight of the cars were leaking at some point. No injuries have so far been reported.
As North American crude oil production boomed in 2013, fuel-by-rail has doubled. Spills are the luckier of the possible derailment scenarios. 2013 saw a number of rail crashes in the U.S. and Canada that ended in flames. These included derailments in Alabama, North Dakota, and the Canadian province of Quebec — in the latter case, the derailment and explosion flattened half of a small town and killed 47 people.
After investigating several of the crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for stricter regulations on fuel-by-rail. Until those are hashed out, the Board is recommending that rail carriers be audited to ensure they have adequate safety and response procedures, and that infrastructure be expanded so trains can route around major urban centers rather than through them.