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Train catches fire in Lynchburg, Va., derailment

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) -- Several CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil derailed in downtown and caught fire along the James River in Lynchburg, Va., leading to the evacuation of nearby buildings, but no injuries, city officials said.

The city on its website and Twitter posted that firefighters on the scene made the decision to let the fire burn out and urged motorists and pedestrians to avoid the area. It tweeted that the tanker cars were carrying crude oil and that three or four of them were breached. The city said 13 or 14 tanker cars were involved in the derailment.

Photos and video show several black tanker cars derailed and extensive flames and smoke.

The city said there was no impact on the drinking water for its 77,000 residents due to spillage into the James River. However, officials for the city of Richmond said its public utilities department is drawing from an old canal system instead of the James River as a precaution.

The train with about 15 cars was traveling from Chicago to Virginia when it derailed, CSX said in a statement. It did not say where the train was headed. The railroad operator said it is "responding fully, with emergency response personnel, safety and environmental experts, community support teams and other resources."

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

The city said on in a news release on its website that CSX officials were working to remove the portion of the train that is blocking workers from leaving Griffin Pipe Foundry located in the lower basin.

"We're used to kind of bangs and booms," said Gerald McComas, a security officer at foundry up river from the derailment site. "My first thought was it sounded like one of the guys started a motorcycle and then a realized, wait a minute, no ... that was more of a boom. We walked outside and there was the smoke rolling in."

A portion of the train was blocking the road allowing workers at to leave their parking lot, McComas said. Instead workers were walking along the tracks to get to the other side of the train in order to leave their facility.

"I'm walking home tonight," McComas joked.

A phone message left by The Associated Press with the Lynchburg Police Department wasn't immediately returned.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adam Thiel was dispatched to the site to provide officials with updates on the situation.

In one of her last acts before leaving office last week, outgoing National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman warned the Obama administration that it needs to take steps immediately to protect the public from potentially catastrophic oil train accidents even if it means using emergency authority.

The safety board has long recommended that the Department of Transportation toughen its design standard for the kind of rail tank cars used to transport crude oil and ethanol.

The cars are too easily punctured or ruptured, even in low-speed accidents. Their flammable contents are then spilled, fouling the environment and often igniting.

"We are very clear that this issue needs to be acted on very quickly," Hersman told reporters at the conclusion of a two-day forum the board held on the safety of rail transport of oil and ethanol. "There is a very high risk here that hasn't been addressed ... We don't need a higher body count before they move forward."

In 2011, the oil, ethanol and railroad industries agreed on voluntary measures that toughened standards for rail cars known as DOT-111s, which are the kind of tank cars used to transport most flammable liquids. However, there have since been several accidents in which cars built to the new standards ruptured. NTSB officials have said the voluntary standards don't go far enough.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said he expects the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which is part of the department, to send a proposal for new tank car standards to the White House for review this week. However, it's likely to be at least months, and possibly years, before new government standards go into effect.

There have been eight significant oil train accidents in the U.S. and Canada in the past year involving traings hauling crude oil, including several that resulted in spectacular fires, according to the safety board.

Join the discussion

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Paul Waltz April 30 2014 at 10:08 PM

Don't use our town as your personal anti-oil sounding board. Lynchburg has been moving fuels for YEARS without ANY problems. Ever since the flood of 1985 and the chlorine tank cars washing down the James River, Lynchburg, Virginia has done an OUTSTANDING JOB!!! Learn from us!!!

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1 reply
twiggymonsterone Paul Waltz April 30 2014 at 10:26 PM

It's not anti-oil and it's not anti rail road. Yes oil has been moving safely for years. It's the type of oil being transported. There have been several of these accidents up north, Do a goggle search for train accidents and derailment may not have been involved, the oil IS different. Look it up.

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1 reply
texifish twiggymonsterone April 30 2014 at 11:44 PM

The Canadien shale oil is heavier, thicker and less combustable than regular oil. All oil contains some volitle gasses. The percentage is different from each well and provides a way to identify which well produced it.
Ethanol is much more dangerous to transport than any kind of oil. A lttle less volitle than gasoline.
Ethanol is too corrosive for pipeline transport.

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631207948 April 30 2014 at 8:03 PM

More proof we need to start developing more clean green energy.

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1 reply
ffjsb 631207948 April 30 2014 at 8:26 PM

Solyndra, more proof that fossil fuels are still the way to go.

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donalde59 April 30 2014 at 8:02 PM

Build a pipeline

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Dales Best April 30 2014 at 7:59 PM

Good thing that the pipeline hasn't been put in yet. It could have seeped in the ground and jepodized the endangered possum fleas. I mean aren't they hard enough to find now?

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mykecusa@netscap May 01 2014 at 2:58 AM

And there are those that want to ship radioactive waste through town, and pipe oil from Canada to Mexico. I guess some get richer, while others suffer the losses.

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1 reply
philsun73 mykecusa@netscap May 01 2014 at 5:35 AM

The pipeline will save lives. maybe yours someday. People should stop worrying about other people getting rich. If you want to protest something; protest all of the restrictions and regulations that have been put forth to stop us little peons from starting up a shoestring business. Try setting up a food vending stand on wheels, on a down town corner some time, but get ready for all of the costly red tape that it takes before you sell your first "Hot Dog." Going into business for yourself, sometimes in some areas, it is required that you pay the first years estimated tax on receipts before you even start, even though you don't know yourself, and you probably don't have that kind of cash, as its taking all you can manage to get your little business going.

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1 reply
dougmdigs philsun73 May 01 2014 at 8:45 AM

Philson 73, Glad to read from who tells it like it is, Myself a small businessman for over 40 years,
I cannot tell you how bad it is with the Big Government in your face daily, My son now has the Business, He has a lot of problems, And 95%of them are with Government rules that have been put in place in the last 6 years, I would not complain, But they are all intended to squeeze you out of control of your business, So you have to charge more to stay in Business due to government cost associated with trying to keep your business afloat, All the ******** know is what they read from a book, So Sad for America.

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Rob April 30 2014 at 7:51 PM

I live in Lynchburg...The town was not evacuated. 4 city blocks at most.

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1 reply
theodorefisk Rob April 30 2014 at 8:32 PM

and the world did not come to an end. Good. It is a nice town

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fireres833 April 30 2014 at 9:42 PM

Whoever wrote this for the AP really needs to get their facts together and use spell check.

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runswthscisors40 April 30 2014 at 7:46 PM

There have been eight significant oil train accidents in the U.S. and Canada in the past year involving traings hauling crude oil, including several that resulted in spectacular fires, according to the safety board.

How long?....again, I say, How long......will this bulls**t go on...................

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1 reply
Rob runswthscisors40 April 30 2014 at 7:51 PM

As long as you need oil..Yea, you.

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jafa525 April 30 2014 at 7:16 PM

allowing the controlled burn lessens downstram contamination

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3 replies
basshunt01 April 30 2014 at 7:12 PM

Well......if we had a pipeline, this might not have happened.

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1 reply
gregiscool basshunt01 April 30 2014 at 7:40 PM

We have had several pipe ruptures carrying Bakken crude, which this is most likely, or diluted Bitumen make from Canadian tar sands. Tell the people which have been trying to cleanup the Kalamazoo River since 2010 that pipelines are a sure thing or the Arkansa farmer who went to till his wheat field and found it covered with oil due to a pipe rupture because EXXON overpressurized the pipeline to increase flow. Our pipelines are old and the weld quality in the Keystone pipeline leaves much to be disired. Theoretically, I agree pipelines should be much better but the haste of the greedy oil companies in construction & operation destroyes my confidence.

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