Alberta residents still evacuated after LNG rail crash
Residents remain away from their homes in Parkland County, Alberta, Canada, for a fourth straight day after a westbound Canadian National Railway train carrying liquefied natural gas and crude oil derailed Saturday.
During the incident, which occurred near the city of Gainford at around 1 a.m. local time, 13 cars derailed, four of which were loaded with crude oil, with the remainder carrying LNG. Parkland County officials declared a state of emergency for the surrounding area soon after the accident and initiated a mandatory evacuation that is still in effect.
According to Parkland County officials, no crude oil cars were compromised, and no injuries occurred. On Saturday, three of the cars carrying LNG started burning, and one car was venting natural gas.
"As the level of threat has not changed, Parkland County remains in a state of local emergency and our mandatory evacuation order remains in force and effect," Parkland County said Monday. "Residents will remain evacuated until further notice. We will not speculate at this time how long it will take to return them to their homes."
Highways surrounding the area remain closed.
"Parkland County's focus — since this incident occurred — has been, and continues to be, on the safety of our residents," Parkland County Mayor Rod Shaigec said in a statement. "We have directed considerable human resources and provided financial assistance to support residents as best we can during this very trying time."
Firefighters have been on the scene since Saturday, but have been limited to simply containing the fire for safety reasons. Workers have been trying to vent and burn off the gas before cleanup can begin. On Saturday, an official said the incident still poses a real and present danger to residents, adding that "there's always a danger of another explosion."
In a press conference on Monday, a CN official said the railroad, community organizations and the government are working together "under very demanding circumstances." The official had hoped residents could return to their homes on Monday, but a controlled burn of the natural gas did not successfully remove all the gas from the derailed cars, so officials came to the conclusion that the scene was still too unsafe.
“We hoped for an early return, but in the interest of safety, we can’t do that yet," the official said. “CN’s commitment to safety is unwavering. Our goal remains to enable residents to return to their homes as quickly as it is safely possible. “
On the other side of Canada, a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train carrying crude oil derailed in July, killing 47 people in the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic. Montreal, Maine & Atlantic has since declared bankruptcy in both Canada and the U.S. The railroad has stopped carrying crude oil, and recent figures from the Canada Transportation Agency show MM&A's total traffic has been cut by 70 percent since the accident, while the transportation of dangerous goods has been reduced by 80 percent. In the ensuing months, governments on both sides of the border have enacted stricter safety regulations for carrying crude oil on rail.