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Tanker train derails, catches fire

| Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013, 5:51 p.m.
Emergency crews respond to a fire that erupted when a tanker train carrying oil and gas derailed in Gainford, Alberta, Canada, west of Edmonton on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013.

GAINFORD, Alberta — Emergency crews on Saturday battled a huge fire sparked when a Canadian National tanker train carrying oil and gas derailed overnight west of Edmonton, Alberta. No injuries were reported.

Canadian National spokesman Louis-Antoine Paquin said 13 cars — four carrying petroleum crude oil and nine loaded with liquefied petroleum gas — came off the tracks about 1 a.m. local time in the hamlet of Gainford, about 50 miles from Edmonton. The entire community of about 100 people was evacuated.

Paquin said three cars containing gas were leaking and on fire. Local officials feared there could be an explosion and declared a state of emergency.

“It's still a risky situation, so we need to contain as much as possible and keep people far away,” said Carson Mills, spokesman for Parkland County, which includes Gainford.

A local resident described hearing a series of crashes moments before a huge fireball shot into the sky.

“The fireball was so big, it shot across both lanes of the Yellowhead (Highway) and now both lanes of the Yellowhead are closed and there's fire on both sides,” said the eyewitness, identified only as Duane.

The train was traveling from Edmonton to Vancouver, British Columbia, Paquin said.

The Transportation Safety Board said it is sending investigators to the scene.

Questions about the increasing transport of oil by rail in the United States and Canada were raised in July after an unattended train with 72 tankers of oil rolled into the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic near the Maine border, derailing and triggering explosions that killed 47 people. The town's center was destroyed. The rail company's chairman blamed the train's operator for failing to set enough hand brakes.

Much of that increase is from oil produced in the Bakken region, a rock formation underlying portions of Montana and North Dakota, and Saskatchewan and Manitoba in Canada.

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