Explosions after train carrying oil derails in West Virginia

Governor declares emergency, two towns evacuated as 109-car train catches fire

A CSX Corp train hauling crude derails in West Virginia, setting at least two cars ablaze and forcing the evacuation of two nearby towns. Video: Reuters


A train hauling 109 cars of crude oil derailed in West Virginia on Monday, setting a number of cars ablaze and forcing the evacuation of two towns.

CSX Corp said the train, which derailed at about 1.20pm EST (6.20 pm Irish time) was hauling 109 cars from North Dakota to the coastal town of Yorktown, Virginia. One or two of the cars of the CSX Corp train plunged into the Kanawha River, officials said.

West Virginia governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for Kanawha and Fayette counties and about 200 residents were evacuated from a mile-wide area around the crash site after a house caught fire, officials said.

CSX said one person was being treated for potential inhalation of fumes. No other injuries or deaths were reported.

As of 9.30pm local time (2.30am Irish time), billowing flames could still be seen coming from several rail cars.

Blaze at West Virginia crash site

The derailment occurred less than 200 miles (320 km) west of Lynchburg, Virginia, where another CSX train also bound for the Plains terminal in Yorktown derailed and erupted last April.


West Virginia state police first Sgt Greg Duckworth, who was at the crash site, said that nine or 10 of the cars had exploded at intervals of about every half hour. A similar sequence has occurred in a handful of other derailments over the past year and a half, with the fire from one tank heating up gases in the next nearest car, causing it to ignite.

“It’s a real mess down here,” Mr Duckworth said.

Joe Crist, Fayette County fire coordinator, said clean-up was expected to take several days as the fires burn themselves out, adding that freezing temperatures and snowfall would make it difficult.

The latest incident came just two days after a Canadian National Railways train from Alberta’s oil sands derailed in a wooded area of northern Ontario. The company said 29 of 100 cars were involved and seven caught fire.

No injuries were reported, but the cars were still on fire on Monday.