CSX apologizes for derailment as fire still burns

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin at the train derailment site on Tuesday.


FAYETTE COUNTY, W.Va. — A CSX spokesperson offered an apology Tuesday as fire continued to burn at the site of a train derailment that forced 1,000 people to evacuate.

“I would like to apologize for the significant disruption in the lives of a lot of people in those communities there, and let me pledge that we’re working to get everything back in order as quickly as we can,” Gary Sease told MetroNews “Talkline.”

Sease and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin gave addressed Monday’s accident where 26 tanker cars that were part of a 109-car train hauling Bakken crude oil derailed near Mount Carbon and Deepwater. At times, 19 of those cars were on fire.

Flames shoot skyward after the CSX train derailed near Mount Carbon, W.Va. on Monday.

Claiming none of those burning cars made it into the Kanawha River or its Armstrong Creek tributary, Sease said officials determined “to let the fire burn out.”

Seven of the cars that derailed did not rupture and were being uprighted, while 79 other cars that stayed on the tracks had been pulled away from the derailment scene by Tuesday. Sease estimated each of the cars contained 29,500 gallons of oil.

Sease could not provide an estimate on how much crude oil may have spilled from the ruptured tanker cars and could not confirm the speed of the train at the time of the derailment.

No one was seriously injured, though one home was destroyed. Evacuated residents were not being allowed back into their homes 24 hours later and officials gave no indications of how long the evacuation would last.

State officials said 85 residents were in two emergency shelters on Monday night.

“We have arranged a number of hotel rooms,” Sease said. “We are trying to move people from shelters to the motel rooms which are more comfortable so they can stay there until the all-clear is sounded and they can get back to their homes.”

About 700 homes and businesses in Fayette County did not have power Tuesday morning because of damage blamed on the derailment and the subsequent explosion and fires that sent flames hundreds of feet into the air.

“It’s not extensive damage (to the power system), but the conditions are a little different,” said Phil Moye, spokesperson for Appalachian Power.

Moye said crews equipped with air monitors entered the derailment site to make power repairs Tuesday morning. He estimated power could be restored as soon as Tuesday afternoon.

Laura Jordan, spokesperson for West Virginia American Water Company, said the Montgomery Water Treatment Plant resumed operations at shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday, though it could take as along as two days to restore service throughout the system.

The intake for the facility was closed as a precaution Monday after initial derailment reports indicated a car and its oil tumbled into the Kanawha River.

“There were no rail cars that actually made it into the river,” Jordan said, referencing information CSX provided. “In fact, the (place) where the accident occurred was right at the mouth of Armstrong Creek, which is at the mouth of the Kanawha River, but not in the Kanawha River itself.”

Jordan said three water tests were taken from Kanawha River samples and none showed crude oil in the water at the intake for the Montgomery treatment plant.

Officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation said the Federal Railroad Administration would be visiting the scene.

The CSX train was en route from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va. Last April, 17 tanker cars derailed on the same line in Lynchburg, Va., with several of the cars spilling into the James River.

A State of Emergency was still in effect for both Kanawha County and Fayette County on Tuesday.

Crews and equipment lined up along state Route 61 in Montgomery Tuesday ready to begin derailment cleanup once they get the okay.

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