UpdateCanada probe to focus on safety after fatal train blast

09 July 2013 17:36  [Source: ICIS news]

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TORONTO (ICIS)--Canadian transport safety experts will focus their investigation of a fatal explosion of a runaway train carrying crude oil in Quebec on the train's braking system and the type of tank railcar involved, they said on Tuesday.

However, in televised media update, investigators from Canada’s Transportation and Safety Board (TSB) said it was too early to determine the precise cause of Saturday’s accident at Lac-Megantic, about 250km east of Montreal, that has caused 13 deaths so far.  

TSB investigator Donald Ross said that the type and safety of the tank railcars involved in the accident – known as “Category 111” – would form part of the investigation.

The TSB also commented on the chronology of events leading to the accident.

The 72 railcar-train of carrier Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway (MMA) was parked at around 23:00 local time on Friday at Nantes, some 11km uphill from Lac-Megantic.

At around 23:50 there was a fire at one of the train’s locomotives, which was quickly put out.
At about 01:00 on Saturday the unmanned train began rolling downhill into Lac-Megantic, quickly gaining speed before derailing and exploding at 01:14 in the town.

MMA said earlier that a release of air brakes on the locomotive may have been at fault.

Industry trade group Railway Association of Canada said it sent its experts to Lac-Megantic to help authorities in identifying the cause of “this atypical accident”.

The group added that rail carriers strictly applied all federal and other regulations on rail shipments of dangerous goods.

Quebec police said earlier on Tuesday that the number of confirmed deaths from the accident currently stands at 13. However, more than 35 people are still unaccounted for, they said.

The accident has sparked a debate about the safety and security of oil and chemicals shipment by rail in Canada. Both Canada and the US have seen a sharp increase in oil shipments by railcar because of tight pipeline capacities.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
+1 713 525 2653

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