A train carrying Bakken crude oil collided with another freight train Monday afternoon, triggering at least five huge explosions and fires and leading to an evacuation of the North Dakota town of Casselton.
The 106-car eastbound crude train collided with a westbound 112-car train that was hauling grain.
The accident happened at about 2 pm local time (CST).
At least 21 rail cars were on fire after the collision.
Both trains belonged to BNSF Railway Co, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
A Reuters report said half the oil cars have been separated from the train, but another 56 cars remain in danger, according to Cecily Fong, the public information officer with the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.
Amateur footage posted on YouTube showed huge fireballs rising from exploding rail cars.
Both engines pulling the oil train were destroyed.
No deaths or injuries have been reported.
The Cass County Sheriff’s Office asked all 2,300 residents of Casselton, about 25 miles west of Fargo, to leave their homes.
Authorities said shifting winds could expose all people in the town to the plume of smoke from the blazing train cars.
Crews were piling snow near the site to create barriers to contain the crude and stop it from seeping into a local creek.
Authorities aren’t sure yet what caused the derailment. BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said the train carrying grain derailed first and knocked several cars of the oil train off adjoining tracks, the AP said.
Representatives of the National Transportation Safety Board couldn’t get close enough to scene to start their site investigation because of burning cars and the danger of more explosions.
North Dakota crude production reached about 950,000 barrels per day in October. Of that, about 700,000 bpd moved by rail.
The light Bakken crude is known to be highly flammable.
In June this year, a train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in the Quebec town of Lac-Megantic this summer, killing 47 people and flattening the center of the town.
And in November, a 90-car train transporting crude oil from North Dakota derailed and exploded in a rural area of western Alabama. At least 20 of the derailed cars exploded and burned for three days, but there were no injuries.
After the Lac-Megantic accident, the U.S. Department of Transportation began the “Bakken Blitz” — a safety operation that includes spot inspection of oil shipments aboard trains in North Dakota.