Train Carrying Oil Derails, Bursts Into Flames

LYNCHBURG, Va. (Reuters) -

A CSX Corp train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia ,on Wednesday, spilling oil into the James River and forcing hundreds to evacuate.

In its second oil-train accident this year, CSX said 15 cars on a train traveling from Chicago to Virginia derailed at 2:30 p.m. EDT. Photos and video showed high flames and a large plume of black smoke. Officials said there were no injuries, but 300-350 people were evacuated in a half-mile radius.

City officials instructed motorists and pedestrians to stay away from downtown, while firefighters battled the blaze. Three railcars were still on fire as of 4 p.m., CSX said.

The fiery derailment a short distance from office buildings in the city of 77,000 was sure to bring more calls from environmentalists and activists for stricter regulations of the burgeoning business of shipping crude oil by rail.

JoAnn Martin, the city’s director of communications, said three or four tank cars were leaking, and burning oil was spilling into the river, which runs to Chesapeake Bay. She said firefighters were trying to contain the spill and would probably let the fire burn itself out.

Several trains carrying crude have derailed over the past year. Last July, a runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, derailed and exploded, killing 47 people. Another CSX train carrying crude oil derailed in Philadelphia in January, nearly toppling over a bridge.

With more trains hauling crude and flammable liquids across North America, U.S. regulators are expected soon to propose new rules for more robust tank cars to replace older models; Canadian authorities did so last week.