First-hand account, Mayor of Lac-Mégantic…

Repost from The Guardian, Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Lac-Mégantic mayor tells Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference about train explosion

Dave Stewart, February 13, 2014
In the hours and days after a train derailment and explosion that killed more than 40 people last July, Colette Roy Laroche, mayor of Ville de Lac-Mégantic, Que., said there was too much to do.Laroche was one of four panelists at a conference in Charlottetown on Thursday entitled ‘Decision-making for Resilience: Finding the Path Forward and Minimizing Risk in Our Communities’. It was part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference and trade show.Just after midnight on July 6, 2013 an unattended freight train carrying crude oil derailed, resulting in a fire and explosion of multiple-tank cars. In addition to the dead, more than 30 buildings in the town’s centre, roughly half of the downtown area, were destroyed. It was the fourth deadliest rail accident in Canadian history.Suddenly, a town of 6,000 people became a major story on newscasts around the world.”I wasn’t prepared for that kind of media presence,” Laroche said through an interpreter. “We’re a town of 6,000 people. Everything is usually very quiet. We were overwhelmed by so many media. As the mayor, I didn’t have a lot of time to think.”

Even as she recounts the story today, Laroche remains calm, talking about phone service that was completely cut off and turning to the media to communicate with residents and to encourage them in the face of what had happened.

The local high school was transformed into a shelter for about 2,000 residents and for others to get information. Breakfast was served at the school at 7 a.m. following the initial explosions

More than 80 fire departments came to help fight the massive fire and the provincial government sent what help it could.

Laroche said more than 100 businesses in the downtown, that provide professional services, were relocated while 50 business, as a whole, were also moved.

Rebuilding the town is going to take a while, she said.

“We need three to five years before we can rebuild the area affected by the disaster,” Laroche said, noting that the total rebuild could take a decade.

Four condominiums in the area were turned into makeshift businesses with some opening in the next month or two.

Laroche said there is still so much to do. The town is now planning major consultations with residents.

“We need to involve our citizens. We need our people to find themselves (a part of) the reconstruction. Lac-Mégantic will never be what it was.”

Some residents want the town rebuilt as it was, others want a new image.

“Our citizens are beginning to realize it will be a very long process but we have a patient population. They are able to stand up and remain calm.”

Laroche said if there is a positive that came out of the tragedy it’s that it has brought the residents of the small Quebec town much closer together.

    UPDATE: Tar-sands oil spill in Vandergriff, PA

    Repost from Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

    Train derails in Vandergrift; leaking crude oil

    Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch – Crews from Norfolk Southern inspect derailed tanker cars near the MSI Corporation building along First Avenue in Vandergrift on Thursday, February 13, 2014.

    February 13, 2014
    By Chuck Biedka
    Published: Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, 8:30 a.m. 


    At least 21 train tanker cars carrying crude oil and propane derailed shortly before 8 a.m. in Vandergrift near a specialty metals plant.


    At least one of the cars leaked about 1,000 gallons of what Norfolk Southern Rail spokesman David Pigeon described as “heavy” crude oil. That car is resting near the East Vandergrift border. The spill did not make it to the Kiski River.


    One car crashed into a building at MSI Corp, a specialty metals manufacturer, forcing officials to evacuated the building so it could be checked for structural integrity. Company employees in that building were sent home for the day.


    No injuries have been reported.


    Early in the afternoon, two Norfolk Southern contractors were on the scene to begin clearing the cars. Officials from Westmoreland County Emergency Management, the federal Transportation Safety Administration and local firefighters and police are at the scene.


    Officials had considered evacuating homes from the nearby Sherman Avenue neighborhood but determined that wouldn’t be necessary. The closest homes appear to be about 250 yards from the derailment scene.


    Norfolk Southern’s Pigeon said the train was en route from Conway, Beaver County, to Morrisville, about 30 miles north of Philadelphia. Neither he nor emergency officials had any information about what may have caused the derailment.


    Although no streets are closed because of the derailment, the normally busy rail line is closed.



      Another derailed crude oil train

      Repost from CNBC/Reuters  (See also more details in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
      Reuters Updates: Derailed crude oil train was carrying heavy Canadian bitumen, and Derailed cars spilled oil; some leaks stopped

      Another train carrying crude oil derails

      Published: Thursday, 13 Feb 2014

      A Norfolk Southern train carrying crude oil derailed in western Pennsylvania on Thursday, adding to a string of recent accidents that have prompted calls to increase safety standards.

      There were no reports of injuries or fire at the scene, after 21 tank cars came off the track near an industrial park at a bend by the Kiskiminetas River in the town of Vandergrift, according to town and company officials.

      The train, that was heading from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, was mainly carrying crude oil but included one car containing propane gas, one local official said.

      An investigator from the Federal Railroad Administration was on route to the scene, the railroad regulator said.

      Source: Valley News Dispatch – Derailed Norfolk Southern train in western Pennsylvania, Thursday morning, February 13, 2014

      The train crashed into one building owned by MSI Corporation in the industrial complex. All employees had been accounted for, said Sandy Smythe, a public information officer with Westmoreland County’s public safety department, which includes Vandergrift borough.

      There has been no evidence of any leaking from the tankers that came off the tracks, Smythe said.

      MSI declined to comment.

      The area is being hit by a winter storm that is blanketing much of the U.S. Northeast with snow, though the conditions at the time of the train crash were “not bad,” Smythe said.

      This is the latest in a string of crude oil train derailments that has prompted calls for more stringent rules regulating the shipment of crude by rail that has soared in recent years as pipelines fail to keep up with growing supply.

      It comes ahead of a Senate hearing about improving the safety of transporting crude by rail, which has become a major political issue as the incidents pile up. The hearing was scheduled for Thursday but was delayed by the snow.

      Thursday’s accident was the second in less than a month in Pennsylvania. A train hauling crude on a CSX Corp railroad jumped the tracks and nearly toppled over a bridge in Philadelphia on January 20. There were no injuries or fire in that incident.

      A train carrying Bakken oil from North Dakota last July derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and decimating much of the small town.

      Reacting to the incidents, U.S. and Canadian railroad companies, tank car owners and regulators are looking for ways to transport crude on the rails more safely. Much of the focus is on phasing out older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, that do not meet the latest safety standards.

      DOT-111s built before 2011 are prone to puncture and fire during accidents, regulators say.

      It is as yet unclear what type of cars were involved in Thursday’s accident.

      —By Reuters

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