An oil train derailed and caught fire early today in a rural area of central North Dakota, prompting the evacuation of a nearby town where about three dozen people live. No injuries were reported in the accident, which happened about 7:30am near Heimdal, about 115 miles northeast of Bismarck. Ten tanker cars on the BNSF Railway train caught fire, creating thick black smoke, state Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong says. "The engine and cars that aren't burning have been decoupled and moved to safety," she adds. Firefighters from four communities responded to the fire, and regional hazardous-materials teams were sent to the scene. A team of 10 investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration was expected to arrive by midday. The EPA planned to gauge any contamination to nearby waterways.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the wreck. The derailment was the fifth this year in the US and Canada and comes less than a week after the Department of Transportation announced a rule to toughen construction standards for thousands of tank cars that haul oil and other flammable liquids. FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg said the accident was "yet another reminder" of the need for changes that have been resisted by the oil industry, which says it will take years to replace unsafe cars. BNSF said the tank cars that derailed were constructed under a 2011 voluntary rail industry standard intended to make them tougher than older cars. But the new cars have proved equally dangerous: The five oil train accidents this year all involved the newer cars, each of which can hold about 30,000 gallons.