EMERGENCY crews battled a massive fire after a Canadian National tanker train carrying oil and gas derailed west of Edmonton, Alberta, overnight. No injuries have been reported so far.
Canadian National spokesman Louis-Antoine Paquin said 13 cars - four carrying petroleum crude oil and nine loaded with liquified petroleum gas - came off the tracks around 1 am in the hamlet of Gainford, about 50 miles (80 kms) from Edmonton. The entire community of roughly 100 people was evacuated.
Three cars containing gas were leaking and on fire. Local officials feared there could be an explosion and declared a state of emergency.
"It's still a risky situation so we need to contain as much as possible and keep people far away," said Carson Mills, spokesman for Parkland County, which includes Gainford.
A resident described hearing a series of crashes moments before a huge fireball shot into the sky.
"The fireball was so big, it shot across both lanes of the Yellowhead (Highway) and now both lanes of the Yellowhead are closed and there's fire on both sides," said a witness identified only as Duane.
The train was travelling from Edmonton to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Questions about the increasing transport of oil by rail in the US and Canada were raised in July after an unattended train with 72 tankers of oil rolled into the small Quebec town of Lac-Megantic near the Maine border, derailing and triggering explosions that killed 47 people. The town's centre was destroyed. The rail company's chairman blamed the train's operator for failing to set enough hand brakes.