A train carrying crude oil derailed and burst into flames in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia  Wednesday.

Oil spilled into the nearby James River.

Hundreds were forced to evacuate and local businesses were shut down.

There were no reports of fatalities or injuries.

CSX, the owner and operator of the train that was passing through the city’s downtown, said 15 cars derailed at 2:30 p.m. EST.

The train was traveling from Chicago to Virginia.

Flames and black smoke shot skyward.

Between 300 to 350 people within  a half-mile radius of the accident were  evacuated.

City officials told motorists and pedestrians to stay away from downtown.

Three railcars were still on fire as of 4 p.m., CSX said.

JoAnn Martin, director of communications for the city of Lynchburg, with a population of 77,000 and home to Liberty University, said three or four tank cars were leaking, and burning oil was spilling into the James River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

The Department of Transportation said it was sending Federal Railroad Administration inspectors to the scene.

Last July, a runaway train in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, derailed and exploded, killing 47 people.

Industry and government teams have been working to introduce new safety standards for crude tank cars.

In January, another CSX crude train derailed in Philadelphia and dangled over a bridge.

CSX shipped 46,000 car loads of crude by rail last year and plans to ship 15 percent more this year.


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