On December 30th, authorities ordered the evacuation of Casselton, ND residents after a massive train collision. A BNSF train carrying oil tankers crashed into another train and several of the oil tanks caught fire. Despite the lack of injuries or fatalities directly associated with the crash, a series of blasts and toxic smoke remained a cause for alarm. This was verified through the sheriff's office which noted that the wind would be taking the smoke from the crash into populated areas. The exposure to the fumes could have resulted in a potential health hazard for anyone in the area. To prevent this, approximately 2,400 people and individuals within a five mile radius of the crash were asked to remove themselves from immediate danger until weather conditions changed and there was no longer a concern.
The mandatory evacuation order was lifted the next day, and Casselton residences were allowed to return to their homes.
The Cass County Sheriff's Office released a statement declaring, "The environment within the city limits of Casselton is now safe for residents to return to their homes."
A couple of the cars on the train were still burning when the order to evacuate was lifted, however there were no longer any fears of far-reaching consequences. Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell said that the fire was contained. Dr. Alan Nye, who is a toxicologist that was hired by BNSF Railway to test air quality said that there was no byproducts detected from the crude oil in the cars.
This crash is said to be at least the fourth major explosive crash involving the transportation of crude oil. As investigations continue into this latest crash, there is a sense that lax safety standards are responsible. With more than two thirds of the state's oil transformed by train and due to increase, there is concern that such crashes could increase. It is hoped these incidents will allow for a push towards better railway standards.
Image via Hibou TV