Another train carrying dangerous chemicals derails

On Friday afternoon a train carrying fuel derailed near the Arizona-New Mexico border. The derailment caused a large fire, which led to an evacuation of the immediate area and traffic closures, including Interstate 40.

The BSNF train detailed at approximately 1.45 MT near Manuelito, New Mexico. It was carrying gasoline and non-odorous propane.

“The preliminary information we have is the train derailed at least 22 cars including multiple propane tank cars,” the National Transportation Safety Board said in a statement issued on Saturday.

Two of the tanks caught fire.

On Friday night, BSNF personnel were working to clear the site “as safely as possible,” according to a company statement. “The cause of the derailment is under investigation.”

Passengers were told that the earliest they could expect to catch a train on the line would be Monday.

In recent years there has been an intense focus on derailments and the state of US infrastructure, with suggestions that some of the derailments might be deliberate.

Recently Norfolk Southern settled a payment of damages for the catastrophic derailment that took place last year at East Palestine, Ohio. The company agreed to pay $600 million in a class-action settlement.

Why didn’t the EPA declare a public health emergency in East Palestine, Ohio?

“Internal EPA emails reveal there were concerns about the consequences after chemicals spilled and burned.”

— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) April 4, 2024

On February 3 2023, 38 cars of a North Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed at East Palestine. Fires burned for days and large quantities of hydrogen chloride and phosgene were released into the atmosphere. Tanks contained vinyl chloride were deliberately burned to prevent an explosion. The official response to the disaster, especially the deliberate burning, were heavily criticised.

Security footage showed a fire burning under one of the train cars as it the train passed Salem and New Waterford, Ohio before it derailed.

A new bill was introduced after the disaster, The Railway Safety Act of 2023, to improve safety and increase civil penalties for rail carriers that violate federal safety requirements.

Statistics show that since 1975 an average of 2808 trains have derailed every year in the US, with a peak of 9400 derailments in 1978. Train derailments have fallen consistently since 1978. Illinois, Texas and Pennsylvania have had the most derailments in the US since 1975.

Half of all derailments are caused by mechanical failures or issues involving the structure of the railroad. Thirty percent are caused by human error, such as a crewmember failing to perform their duty of violating a rule or procedure.

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