A CSX freight train in Lynchburg, Virginia, derailed this afternoon at around 2:00pm, creating a choking black pall that smothered the surrounding region and engulfed that neck of the James River in flames. The freight train was carrying crude oil; 12 to 14 tanker cars of the crude oil derailed next to the James River, with 3 to 4 cars breached, and no injuries reported.
The cause of the accident hasn’t been determined, according to the City of Lynchburg.
— TIM BARRY (@TIMBARRYRVA) April 30, 2014
The disaster dumped raw crude into the river and forced an evacuation of 300 people from downtown Lynchburg due to the smoke, according to the city’s communication director, JoAnn Martin, and Bonnie Svreck, the deputy city manager, said:
[box type=”shadow”][W]e have evacuated the downtown area from the river up about 3 or 4 blocks… It looks like there’s a buffer of trees between the river and any buildings, so it doesn’t appear right now any buildings have been affected.[/box]
The fire was too hot for emergency response crews to approach initially, and firefighters couldn’t use water to put the fires out, as they were unsure what was in the tankers. The tankers eventually burned themselves out after two hours.
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) April 30, 2014
There was hearing scheduled earlier Wednesday morning in D.C. that regards CSX’s planned expansion of their Virginia Avenue tunnel in Downtown D.C.; an expansion that’s been criticized by local residents who worried that the same crude dumped in the James River might wind up on their front lawns.
— Whet Moser (@whet) April 30, 2014
The increase in crude oil transportation through the region has also increased environmentalist worries. Glen Besa, of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, said of the incident:
[box type=”shadow”]These trains are traveling through Lynchburg along the James River through Richmond and on to the York County facility on the York River. We’re concerned that a train derailment could result in an explosion and the loss of life, or an oil spill that could jeopardize our drinking water supplies and the environment.[/box]
According to the AP, Jim Hall, former National Transportation Safety Board chairman, said:
[box type=”shadow”] This is another national wake-up call. We have these oil trains moving all across the United States through communities and the growth and distribution of this has all occurred, unfortunately, while the federal regulators have been asleep.
This is just an area in which the federal rulemaking process is too slow to protect the American people[/box]
The NTSB and the Federal Railroad Commission are both sending investigators.
You can watch a video courtesy of Instagram user sherifelipe below:
h/t Think Progress