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Train Carrying Ethanol Derails and Catches Fire in Minnesota
Climate&Weather Transportation

Train Carrying Ethanol Derails and Catches Fire in Minnesota

A train carrying ethanol — an extremely flammable material that can cause coughing, eye-burning, dizziness, sleepiness and full unconsciousness — derailed on the outskirts of the small town of Raymond in Minnesota’s Kandiyohi County early Thursday, sparking a fire and evacuation orders under the cover of darkness. 

The incident comes nearly two months after a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, spewed toxic vinyl chloride into the town’s environment and raised questions about the safety of transporting hazardous chemicals by rail. 

“It never ends,” one commenter wrote under a Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post announcing the Minnesota derailment. 

The Sheriff’s Office learned of the derailment at around 1 a.m. local time and found that a Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) train had gone off the rails along Raymond’s western border. Several of the overturned cars caught on fire, prompting the decision to evacuate everyone within a half a mile of the site. 

“Just smoke concern, and ethanol concern. We didn’t know if they were going to blow up,” Raymond Mayor and assistant fire chief Ardell Tensen told Minnesota Public Radio. 

One of the evacuees was Brittney Phelps, who was surprised when an emergency worker knocked on the door of the home where she lives with her family at 1:30 a.m., CNN reported.

“I heard a loud crash but didn’t think anything of it ‘til ambulances were outside the house,” Phelps said.

Phelps and her family relocated to an emergency shelter set up in a school in nearby Prinsburg. BNSF said it expected that people would be able to return home around 11 a.m. Thursday, as Minnesota Public Radio reported. However, it could take days to clean up the crash site and burn off all the ethanol. 

“BNSF can confirm that on March 30th, at 1:02 am local time a train derailed near Raymond, MN.  Approximately 22 cars carrying mixed freight including ethanol and corn syrup are reported to be derailed with four cars on fire,” the railway said in a statement posted on Twitter. “There are no other hazardous materials on the train and no injuries as a result of the incident. BNSF field personnel are onsite to assess the derailment site and are working closely with local first responders.” 

BNSF is still investigating the cause of the crash. The Federal Rail Administration has also arrived in Raymond, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced on Twitter. 

“We are tracking closely as more details emerge and will be involved in [investigation],” he said.

This is the second time a BNSF train has derailed this month. On March 16, a freight train overturned and leaked 5,000 gallons of fuel into the Swinomish Reservation in Washington state. Just this Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik ruled that the railway violated an easement agreement with the Tribe when it began running 100-car trains carrying crude oil through the reservation without consent, as The Seattle Times reported. 

“The tribe takes its agreements very seriously and it expects them to be honored, and we are thankful that BNSF is being held to the promises it made,” Swinomish Indian Tribal Community Chair Steve Edwards said in a statement following the ruling. 

The post Train Carrying Ethanol Derails and Catches Fire in Minnesota appeared first on EcoWatch.


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