A train full of Bakken crude was hit by a derailed grain train in eastern North Dakota and exploded into flames this afternoon, though authorities said no one was killed or injured.
Up to a dozen oil tank cars on a BNSF freight train were engulfed in flames just outside the small town of Casselton, which is near Fargo, reported Reuters.
“Several train cars are on fire and huge plumes of toxic, black smoke can be seen for miles,” reported Valley News Live. “Several explosions have also been reported. Emergency crews are urging people to stay inside and a code red alert has been sent out to residents in a two-mile radius of the accident.”
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Large plumes of black smoked could be seen burgeoning from the wreckage, and Reuters reported “at least five explosions.” At 3:30 p.m. Central Standard Time, a good 10 cars on the 106-car train were still in flames, Reuters and other media said.
The scenario could have been exponentially worse. Last summer the brakes failed on a similarly laden train and sent it careening into the center of tiny Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, vaporizing dozens of people.
Use of such transport methods is increasing in frequency, especially as pipeline proposals languish. Tribes and other environmental stewards have been fighting against expanding rail systems to transport coal, crude and other hazardous materials for just this reason. The Quinault in particular felt the Lac-Mégantic tragedy keenly.
North Dakota contains the well known Bakken oil fields and is home to several tribes. The Three Affiliated Tribes—Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara—on the Fort Berthold Reservation; the Spirit Lake Tribe, on its eponymous reservation, the Standing Rock Sioux, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The Wahpeton Oyate Tribe has some trust land in southeastern North Dakota as well, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office North Dakota district.
The Bakken oil fields have proven both a boon and a bain to tribes involved in the mining of the crude.