Residents forced to evacuate after train carrying ethanol derails, catches fire in Minnesota
A train carrying ethanol derailed early Thursday in rural Minnesota and several cars caught fire, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate homes as a precaution.
The train derailed at 1 a.m. in the small city of Raymond, the city's fire department reported. The city is in southwest Kandiyohi County about 110 miles west of Minneapolis.
Homes within a half mile of the derailment were evacuated, the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. The evacuation order was lifted around noon.
No injuries had been reported, officials said, and the cause of the derailment was not known.
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BNSF Railway said 22 cars derailed, including about 10 carrying ethanol, and four of the cars carrying ethanol had ruptured causing the flammable fuel additive to catch fire. The track remained blocked on Thursday and local authorities said fire suppression and cooling operations could continue into the weekend.
'The fireman woke us'
Christine O'Leary, who lives three blocks from the site of the crash, said she, her boyfriend and two children awoke to someone banging on her door at about 2 a.m.
"The fireman woke us pounding on the door to evacuate," O'Leary, 44, told USA TODAY. "We saw the cars on fire and smelled the smoke. It was crazy. Fire trucks came from everywhere."
O'Leary said the couple stayed awake in the car so her children could finish sleeping. Her home, she said, appeared to be undamaged.
The fire department and sheriff's office could not immediately be reached by USA TODAY.
The main track was blocked, and it was not known when the line could be reopened, BNSF railroad reported.
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Train was carrying ethanol and corn syrup
The train was carrying mixed freight, including corn syrup and ethanol, Lena Kent, general director of public affairs for BNSF Railway, told USA TODAY.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials. Ethanol use is widespread; more than 98% of gasoline in the U.S. contains some ethanol.
Kent said 22 cars carrying the freight were derailed and that at least four cars caught fire. Railroad personnel worked with first responders at the crash site, Kent said.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation also closed nearby Highway 23 because of the crash, the fire department reported.
Crews battle fire
Crews continued to battle the blaze Thursday morning and investigate how it happened.
In a Facebook post on the fire department's page, officials said a firefighter's wife said several people had asked how they could help first responders and others involved in the crash.
"The City of Raymond is not accessible to the public, so Unity Church in Prinsburg is willing to be a drop off location for bottled water and snacks for the firemen," the post said.
What's going on? Trains keep derailing all over the country, including one in Washington.
A recent spate of train derailments
The Minnesota crash marks the latest in a wave of derailments over the past two months. Since a fiery Ohio derailment on Feb. 3, trains have derailed in Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Alabama, Nebraska and Arizona.
Most recently, on March 16, a train derailed in Washington state, spilling diesel fuel on tribal land along Puget Sound.
Data shows such derailments are not unusual.
Every day, the nation's railroads move millions of tons of raw materials and finished goods around the country on about 140,000 miles of rails, but their safety record is getting new attention amid scrutiny of the East Palestine derailment disaster.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes and Thao Nguyen, USA TODAY
Natalie Neysa Alund covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Minnesota train derailment: Residents forced to evacuate as precaution