A CSX Corp. crude train derailed in Lynchburg, Va., sparking a fire in at least one tank car, spilling oil into a river and triggering a partial evacuation of the city’s downtown.
No injuries were reported in the accident, which breached three or four cars among the 12 to 14 that left the tracks, the city reported today. The train was en route to a so-called transloading facility where crude is transferred to barges, Chief Executive Officer Mike Ward said in a telephone interview.
Crude, once an almost-negligible cargo for North American railroads, has grabbed safety regulators’ attention after crashes in the U.S. and Canada in recent months, including the explosive Quebec derailment that killed 47 people in July. Canada tightened tank-car standards this month, and the U.S. is studying whether to follow suit.
Video broadcast by WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Virginia, showed thick black smoke and flames billowing from the side of tracks holding a row of tank cars. The accident occurred near the James River, which flows through the heart of Lynchburg about 181 miles (291 kilometers) southwest of Washington.
The derailment’s cause wasn’t immediately known, according a statement on the city’s website. LuAnn Hunt, a city spokeswoman, said the fire department was letting the fire burn out while looking for ways to contain the oil dumped into the James.
About 300 to 350 people were evacuated from the area, Hunt said.
Today’s accident was the first to spill crude from a CSX train, Ward said. The Jacksonville, Florida-based railroad had a low-speed incident earlier this year in Philadelphia that didn’t release any oil, Ward said. CSX is the biggest railroad in the eastern U.S.
“We are aware of the derailment in Lynchburg and are sending FRA inspectors to the scene now,” Kevin Thompson, associate administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, said in a statement.
Oil tank cars made up the entirety of the cargo, according to Ward, who said he didn’t know the length of the train involved in the crash. A train carrying only crude would typically be about 100 cars, Ward said.
CSX rose 0.2 percent to $28.22 at the close in New York, paring the carrier’s decline this year to 1.9 percent.
Lynchburg has a population of 76,500 and is located at the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.