Oil Train Derails in North Dakota, Town Evacuated

A police officer walks along the rail tracks north of the central Macedonian town of Veles, on Friday, April 24, 2015 near where 14 migrants were killed by a train while walking along the tracks. Fourteen migrants believed to be from Afghanistan and Somalia who were heading north toward the European Union were killed by an express train as they walked along tracks in central Macedonia Thursday night, police said Friday. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski)

A train carrying crude oil derailed and caught fire in Wells County, North Dakota on Wednesday, officials said, just days after the U.S. government announced sweeping reforms to improve safety of the volatile shipments. 

The nearby town of Heimdal was evacuated after as many as many as 10 tank cars of a BNSF [BNISF.UL] train came off the rails, local media and fire officials said. There were no injuries, officials said.

A photo posted on Facebook by a local radio station showed flames and heavy black smoke from several tank cars that had derailed in a field.

Heimdal is a tiny town in central North Dakota located along one of the main rail lines heading east out of the giant Bakken oil patch. About two-thirds of all North Dakota oil production is shipped by rail, three-quarters of that to refiners on the U.S. East Coast.

“We are aware of crude derailment and resulting fire near Heimdal, ND. We have investigators on their way. Will update when we know more,” Sarah Feinberg, acting administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration, said in a message on Twitter.

BNSF did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The derailment came just days after the U.S. Department of Transportation and Canada’s Transport Ministry announced new rules last Friday for oil trains, including phasing out older tank cars, adding electronic braking systems and imposing speed limits. The measures were all meant to reduce the frequency and severity of oil train crashes.

The volume of crude oil by rail has rocketed in recent years as production increases from areas like North Dakota outpaced new pipeline development.

A spate of explosive accidents have accompanied that growth, the worst of which occurred in July 2013 when a train derailed in the town of Lac Megantic in Canada, killing 47 people.

Already this year, five trains have derailed and caught fire in the United States and Canada, all in rural areas. No deaths have occurred but the accidents have stoked fears about the safety of crude oil by rail.

Source: Reuters

(Reporting By New York Energy desk; Editing by Frances Kerry)

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