Train With Hazardous Materials Derails in North Dakota

Authorities in North Dakota temporarily issued a shelter-in-place advisory to locals on Sunday while they worked to clean up the area around the scene of a derailed train that had caused a fire and was transporting dangerous cargo.

According to Andrew Kirking, a county emergency management coordinator in east-central North Dakota, the advisory was given as a precaution after air sensors detected low quantities of a toxic chemical –anhydrous ammonia. 

A railcar sprang a leak of the toxic gas when it was being removed from the twisted wreckage.

After air monitoring levels dropped to zero later on Sunday, the alert was withdrawn, and no injuries were recorded as a result of the leak.

Health experts say that exposure to excessive levels of ammonia in the air can burn the eyes and respiratory system. It can also cause blindness, lung damage, or even death. Even at lesser concentrations, you may have some nasal and throat discomfort and coughing fits.

The accident occurred early Friday morning in a swampy region surrounded by farmland, approximately 140 miles northwest of Fargo. 

Officials said 29 cars of a CPKC train were pushed off the rails, but no one was hurt.

Kirking did say that the derailment started a fire, but by Sunday, it had been substantially put out. The train was transporting plastic pellets, anhydrous ammonia, and methanol, so the fire was very problematic. 

According to Kirking, the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration have been investigating the cause of the derailment since Saturday.

On Friday night, Kirking stated that the county is making efforts to stabilize the situation, alleviate environmental impacts, and ensure the safety of inhabitants.

He said removing the rail cars would be laborious and would probably take more than a week or two.

Everyone living within a mile of the derailment was informed about the tragedy and the dangers it posed. A voluntary evacuation has been put in place.

It is too early to determine if the toxic chemical has seeped into any rivers.