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US train collision sets oil carriages ablaze

North Dakota crash is the latest in a string of incidents that have raised alarms over growing oil-by-rail traffic.

Last updated: 31 Dec 2013 02:37
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Authorities said the carriages on fire would be allowed to burn out [Reuters]

A train carrying crude oil in the US state of North Dakota has collided with another train, setting off a series of explosions that left at least 10 carriages ablaze, the latest in a string of incidents that have raised alarms over growing oil-by-rail traffic.

No one was injured in the incident on Monday, but officials were evacuating up to 300 people as a precaution.

Local residents heard five powerful explosions about 1.5km outside of the small town of Casselton after a westbound train carrying soybeans derailed, and an eastbound 104-car train hauling crude oil ran into it just after 2pm (20:00 GMT), local officials said.

About 10 carriages were still burning four hours later as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.

Crews were pushing snow to contain the oil and prevent it from reaching a nearby creek.

It was not immediately clear how the collision had occurred.

Shale oil boom

The incident will likely stoke concerns about the safety of shipping increasing volumes of crude oil by rail, a trend that emerged from the unexpected burst of shale-oil production out of North Dakota's Bakken fields. Over two-thirds of the state's oil production is currently shipped by rail.

North Dakota is home to a raging shale oil boom that produced nearly 950,000 barrels of oil a day in October.

Shipments of oil have surged lately, most of it the light, sweet Bakken variety that experts say is particularly flammable.

This summer, a runaway oil train carrying Bakken crude derailed and exploded in Canada, killing 47 people.

In early November, two dozen cars on another 90-car oil train derailed in rural Alabama, erupting into flames that took several days to fully extinguish.

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