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Train carrying hazardous materials derails, injures three

17 April 2023

A freight train operated by Canadian Pacific derailed on April 15 causing a fire which injured three employees. The incident happened while the train, which at the time was carrying hazardous materials amongst its cargo, travelled through the US state of Maine.

Representative image - Credit: Canadian Pacific
Representative image - Credit: Canadian Pacific

Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry said in a statement that the derailment occurred at approximately 08:30 local time in Sandwich Academy Grant Township in Somerset County.

First responders from the Maine Forest Service, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and local emergency departments attended the scene. A total of three locomotive engines and six rail cars carrying lumber and electrical wiring derailed into a wooded area, where they caught fire and started a small forest fire. The fires were contained and are being monitored.

Additional rail cars transporting hazardous materials did not derail. The Forest Department said that the assessment of officials at the scene was that the hazardous materials were not at risk of leaking and were not at risk of catching fire. Officials said there was no threat to public health or safety, though officials continue to ask that the public avoid the area.

Three railroad employees were sent to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. All three were treated and later released. An early assessment indicates that the derailment may have been caused by a build-up of melting ice and debris that washed out part of the railroad track.

The day after the derailment, Canadian Pacific led a salvage, clean up, and rail repair operation in partnership with the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Maine Forest Service, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Jackman-Moose River Fire & Rescue Department.

The effort involved removing the derailed locomotives and rail cars, cleaning up debris from the accident, and repairing the rail line. There is no estimate at this time for how long this effort will take. Officials have continued to ask that people avoid the area while work remains ongoing.

The fires stemming from the derailment burned out after several hours and the rail cars transporting hazardous substances were removed from the scene.

There has been increased focus on rail companies in the US after several derailments in recent months. Most notably, a train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio on February 3 and caused a large fire to break out. A mandatory evacuation order was issued for a one-mile radius after around 50 train cars derailed, many of which were carrying hazardous materials. The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is continuing its investigation into the incident and announced that it had also opened a special investigation of railway operator Norfolk Southern Railway’s organisation and safety culture following several recent incidents.

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