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Belgium train derailment sparks fire

At least two dead and 14 injured after train carrying chemicals derails near city of Ghent causing massive blaze.

Last Modified: 04 May 2013 16:46
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A freight train exploded on a track near Schellebelle prompting the evacuation of 300 people [AFP]

At least two people have died and 14 others have been injured when a train carrying chemicals derailed in Belgium, causing a major fire near the city of Ghent, a local government official has said.

Jan Briers, governor of eastern Flanders, gave the death toll to the Belga news agency on Saturday after the accident and blaze prompted authorities to evacuate nearly 300 people from their homes.

The accident happened around 2:00am local time (0000 GMT) between the towns of  Schellebelle and Wetteren, said Infrabel, the entity responsible for the Belgian railway network.

Six of the train's 13 cars derailed and two were on their side. The blaze led to a series of explosions in the railway cars, then a  spectacular strip of fire spread over hundreds of metres prompting authorities to evacuate residents living near the site of the accident.

Firemen decided to let the cars burn out in a controlled manner as water could have released toxic chemicals.

The blaze was under control by late morning but residents were told to keep their doors and windows closed.

The causes of the accident remained unclear. The cars derailed as the train changed tracks and observers said it might have been travelling too fast.

The train came from the Netherlands and was bound for Gent-Zeehaven, the city's seaport.

Train services between Schellebelle and Wetteren were disrupted and problems were expected for two days, with buses laid on to transport passengers.

Two similar accidents involving goods trains carrying tanks of toxic products occurred in Belgium in May last year.

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