Wednesday, May 22, 2024

BNSF train derailment in Minnesota prompts evacuation

An early Thursday morning derailment involving a BNSF train near Raymond, Minnesota, led to an evacuation of area residents within a half-mile of the site.

The train was carrying 22 rail cars of mixed freight, including ethanol and corn syrup. The derailment, which occurred at 1:02 a.m. local time, caused four rail cars to catch fire, according to a BNSF statement. 

A news release from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office posted on Facebook said local emergency responders assisted in an evacuation of residents within a half-mile of the crash site. 

There were no other hazardous materials on the train and no injuries occurred, and BNSF personnel have been working closely with local first responders at the site, the railroad said. The cause of the incident is still under investigation.

BNSF also said an estimated time for reopening the line was not yet available. The incident occurred approximately 106 miles northwest of Minneapolis.

The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted that it will send a team to conduct a safety investigation into the derailment. A tweet from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is “on the ground” at the site.

The incident in Minnesota early Thursday morning comes amid heightened awareness about train derailments among federal and state leaders as well as the broader public following the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine, Ohio. That incident, which is still being investigated by NTSB, had resulted in a temporary evacuation of the area, and it also involved a planned release of tank cars carrying vinyl chloride, a toxic chemical, to prevent the cars from exploding.

Jitters about train derailments have also led state and federal leaders to undertake initiatives to bolster rail safety, including two bills in Congress as well as initiatives undertaken by FRA, NTSB and the rail industry at large.

Since Feb. 3, several more derailments have been reported across the U.S. among a number of Class I railroads. The ones involving BNSF have included a March 16 derailment that reportedly occurred on the Swinomish Reservation in Skagit County, Washington, and caused thousands of gallons of diesel to spill near the Padilla Bay waterfront, according to Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell; a March 15 derailment near Topock, Arizona, that involved a a BNSF train carrying corn syrup; a Feb. 25 derailment near Culebra, New Mexico; and a Feb. 24 derailment near Minot, North Dakota.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, the Class I railroads experienced 911 train derailments in 2022 and 871 train derailments in 2021.

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Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

Related links:

5 questions you might ask about freight train accidents

Congressional lawmakers want to fine-tune certain initiatives in rail safety bill

Ohio House members introduce their version of a bill addressing rail safety

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