ABC News examines recent “close calls” on our railroads nationwide and poses the frightening question we all wonder: Are Train Accidents Happening more Often? Particularly scary as Floridians continue fighting against, “All Aboard Florida.”
PHILADELPHIA — Daylight on Wednesday revealed the destruction and devastation caused by an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia that left at least six people dead and injured dozens more, several critically.
Some survivors had to scramble through the windows of toppled cars to escape. One of the seven cars was completely mangled.
The accident has closed the nation’s busiest rail corridor between New York and Washington as federal investigators begin sifting through the twisted remains to determine what went wrong.
Train 188, a Northeast Regional, left Washington, D.C. and was headed to New York when it derailed shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. Amtrak said the train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members.
Mayor Michael Nutter, who confirmed five deaths, said the scene was horrific and not all the people on the train had been accounted for.
Temple University Hospital’s Dr. Herbert Cushing said Wednesday a person died there overnight from a chest injury.
“It is an absolute disastrous mess,” Nutter said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
He said all seven train cars, including the engine, were in “various stages of disarray.” He said there were cars that were “completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart.”
More than 140 people went to hospitals to be evaluated or treated.
Amtrak said the cause of the derailment was not known and that it was investigating. The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration were also dispatching investigators to the site.
In recent years, small towns across the United States have begun hosting an increasingly common phenomenon: long trains, made up of 100-plus black cylindrical cars, rolling slowly past our hospitals, schools and homes.
Few who see them know what they carry: highly flammable crude oil from the shale fields around North Dakota.
I live in the Hudson Valley and see these trains daily; Albany is a major hub, and trains traveling south down the Hudson River toward mid-Atlantic refineries hug its shores. Every day on the East Coast, as many as 400,000 barrels of this explosive mixture travel through our backyards over shaky bridges, highways and overpasses.
As this Op-Doc video shows, there are reasons to be very concerned about this increased train traffic, which is directly related to the boom in oil and gas drilling in the Midwest. These trains can be very dangerous, prompting some to call them “bomb trains.” There have already been horrific railway accidents in North America caused when these trains go off the tracks, some of them fatal.
Already this year there have been four serious derailments, resulting in spills, explosions and fires. Safety and Homeland Security officials have mentioned these “rolling bombs” as potential terrorist weapons. And the Department of Transportation has estimated that at this rate there will be 15 major accidents in the United States this year alone. I hope we will do our best to prevent them.
Four accidents in the last month involving trains hauling crude oil across North America have sent flames shooting hundreds of feet into the sky, leaving some experts worried that public safety risks have been gravely underestimated.
Crude trains have crashed in Illinois, West Virginia and twice in Ontario, Canada, forcing evacuations of residents and causing extensive environmental contamination.
The industry acknowledges that it needs to perform better, but says the trains are involved in derailments no more frequently than those hauling containers, grain or motor vehicles. Although the public doesn’t pay much attention, about three freight train derailments occur every day on average.
Critics, however, say the industry’s position misses the point. All it is going to take is one major accident to change the entire calculus.
Read the story online:
Most freight railroad insurance policies couldn’t begin to cover damage from a moderate oil train accident, much less a major disaster. And the Department of Transportation’s own database of oil train incidents is flawed because some railroads and shippers provide incomplete information that far understates property damage.
Those conclusions come from a DOT analysis of its own rule proposed to address the series of troubling derailments across North America as shipments of oil by rail surge.
Vice News: The article looks at the Dangers of Oil by Rail
It took nearly four days for the fires to burn out after a train carrying crude oil derailed in a small West Virginia town last Monday. In the midst of a winter storm, hundreds of residents were evacuated from their homes while two water plants were shut down and power outages stretched on for more than 24 hours. Nearly 68,000 gallons of oily water have been removed from containment trenches along the Kanawha River.
The accident came less than 48 hours after a similar disaster spilled 189,000 gallons of crude in a remote area of Northern Ontario. According to a Department of Transportation (DOT) study, such derailments are expected to take place an average of 10 times a year for the next two decades, causing $4.5 billion in damages and potentially killing hundreds of people.
According to officials, the engine of a northbound freight train derailed 400 feet from west Blue Heron Boulevard, around 6:30 p.m.
There are 20 cars hooked up to the engine.
Authorities said there was a chemical spill, but a Haz Mat team deemed the non-volatile chemicals non-hazardous and the area has been released.
Crews had been waiting for two cranes to arrive so they could move two train cars that contain fuel.
Overnight, all traffic in the area had to be diverted to Silver Beach Road or 13th Street.
There is still no commercial train traffic allowed in the area at this time.
No injuries have been reported.