N.D. derailment prompts safety alert for oil shipped by rail

WASHINGTON -- Federal investigators said Thursday they found a broken axle at the scene of Monday’s derailment and fire in Casselton, N.D. It is too soon to tell if that was a factor in the accident. Also Thursday, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a safety alert concerning oil shipments by rail.

 The fire that followed the train derailment in Casselton burned for more than a day. It was fueled by oil, the cargo on one of the trains. Now federal officials have ordered the oil industry to “properly test, characterize [and] classify hazardous materials” when shipping oil.

N.D. crash highlights dangers of old train cars

The Department of Transportation said it would conduct unannounced inspections of railcars.

The oil that burned in Monday’s derailment came from the Bakken region. Encompassing parts of Montana and North Dakota, it is one of the most active oil fields in the U.S., producing almost 1 million barrels a day.

But, according to government officials, it’s a type of oil that may be more flammable than traditional crude oil. Much of the oil from the Bakken region reaches its destination by rail.

The wakeup call for the freight train industry came last summer in Quebec, Canada, when a train carrying oil derailed in a small town. Forty-seven people died as the oil burned.

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A fireball goes up at the site of an oil train derailment on Dec. 30, 2013, in Casselton, N.D. 
AP Photo/Bruce Crummy
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