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Railcars derail on failing bridge in flood-hit Calgary
Five rail cars carrying hazardous petroleum products were derailed precariously on a sinking bridge over the swollen Bow River in Calgary, Alberta, as emergency crews rushed to prevent a spill.
The cars contain a hazardous flammable liquid that could be kerosene or diesel. A sixth car also derailed on the bridge, which was sagging into the river, but it was an empty crude oil tanker.
No leaks were reported and all the cars were upright.
Calgary was hit by a devastating flood late last week as the Bow and Elbow rivers spilled their banks. But Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for Canadian Pacific Railway, said the bridge had been inspected by a qualified inspector and that the tracks had been inspected. Follow-up inspections had been scheduled.
The massive floods that engulfed southern Alberta over the weekend damaged roads and bridges and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes.
The Calgary railway bridge was at one point seen sinking slowly into the river, but has since stopped moving, Calgary Deputy Fire Chief Ken Uzeloc said. The Bow River supplies drinking water to many communities and cities downstream of Calgary.
“The first step is secure the remaining rail cars that are there to ensure if the bridge does collapse completely, the cars are not floating down the river,” Uzeloc told a news conference.
“We are trying to identify a position downstream where we can set up booms in case we do get any leakage.”
Emergency services organizations were planning to bring in pipes and other rail cars to try and offload the petroleum products, before removing the rail cars using a crane.
The accident triggered new road closures in Calgary, headquarters of most of Canada’s oil and gas companies, and authorities enforced a half mile evacuation zone around the bridge.
CP’s Greenberg said there were no injuries from the derailment, which happened at 3.30 a.m. local time (0930 GMT).
“CP is working with Calgary fire officials to ensure the five cars are safely secured and then the product will be transferred from the impacted cars,” he said in an email.
News of the derailment over the Bow River could fan concerns about the safety of moving crude oil and petroleum products by rail, which is becoming increasingly popular as environmental worries have slowed pipeline development. Statistics Canada data showed 14,211 tank cars were loaded with fuel oils and crude petroleum in March 2013, a 63 percent year-on-year increase.
City authorities said the rail bridge is under federal jurisdiction and is not a bridge the city of Calgary would have inspected in the aftermath of the floods.
In Ottawa, the federal transport department said it was checking to see when officials last examined the bridge.
It is not yet clear if the damage to the bridge was caused by the flooding, which brought the Bow to record levels. The river is still flowing at three times its normal rate for this time of year. (Reuters)
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