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Train carrying crude cargo explodes, spilling oil in rural Alabama

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By The Los Angeles Times
Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, 9:36 p.m.
 

A 90-car train derailed and exploded in rural Alabama early Friday, spilling its crude oil cargo into the surrounding wetlands and igniting a fire so intense that officials said it will take 24 hours to burn out. No one was injured.

The train was crossing a timber trestle above a wetland near Aliceville late Thursday when 20 railcars and two of three locomotives derailed. Earlier reports said fewer cars had derailed.

On Friday morning, about 10 train cars were burning, according to a statement from train owner Genesee & Wyoming.

Emergency responders decided to let the cars burn out. Though the bridge is also burning, the fire is contained, officials said.

Scott Hughes, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, told the Los Angeles Times that the oil has spilled into the wetlands area.

“Typically wetlands are a sanctuary for a variety of different types of aquatic species, so once we're able to get in and assess environmental impacts, we'll certainly look at any impacts to aquatic organisms and other types of wildlife,” Hughes said.

There are extensive wetlands near Aliceville, according to the state's Forestry Commission website.

Hughes said that it's difficult to determine how much oil has been spilled, because responders can't get close to the fire. Hughes said his agency checked the drinking water wells in the area, and there will be no effect on the water.

“The area's pretty rural. There's not a whole lot around,” Alabama Emergency Management spokesperson Yasamie August told the Times.

One family was evacuated, but has returned home, she said.

The Environmental Protection Agency has one person on scene overseeing the cleanup and monitoring of air quality to assess the impact of the crude oil spill, regional EPA spokesperson James Pinkney told the Times.

The train was en route from Amory, Miss., to Walnut Hill, Fla., according to the Genesee statement. It likely originated in North Dakota.

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