Alberta residents remain evacuated as rail cars burn

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CALGARY, Alberta -- Canadian National Railway Co. cars are still burning, and residents remain evacuated Monday, after a derailment Saturday west of Alberta's capital, Edmonton.

CN Rail began a controlled burn of propane Monday night in the rural hamlet of Gainford, CN Rail spokesman Warren Chandler said in a media briefing. He declined to provide a timeline for completion and said the company's main east-west rail corridor remains shut as the company investigates. "It is our hope in the very near future to have some good news for these residents," he said. "It's too early to speculate on a cause at this point."

The derailment of 13 CN cars, nine of which contain propane and four with crude oil, comes as regulators boost scrutiny of oil transport by rail in Canada and the United States. The industry is drawing heightened attention since July, when a train carrying oil jumped the tracks and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47.

There are 126 evacuees registered as displaced, who won't be allowed to go home until it is safe, Parkland County spokeswoman Jackie Ostashek said at media conference on Global News on Monday.

Railroads are facing new rules that may raise costs, as energy companies move more oil on trains amid delays in building new pipelines such as TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL from Alberta's oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Across the continent, trains are forecast to move as much as 2 million barrels a day by the end of 2014, according to Calgary-based pipeline operator TransCanada Corp.

"We run a safe railroad, but we do have incidents," CN Rail chief operating officer Jim Vena said in a news conference on the weekend, according to a video posted online by Parkland County.

Emergency responders over the weekend evacuated Gainford and the surrounding area, and the county declared a state of emergency, after officials were notified of the derailment about 56 miles west of Edmonton.

The 134-car mixed-freight train was traveling from Edmonton to Vancouver, Mr. Vena said. The track involved in the derailment had been tested to standards surpassing those set by Transport Canada and faced "no issues," he said, adding that the track was visually inspected Thursday, and the train was inspected before it left Edmonton the next day.


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