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Train Carrying Ethanol Still Ablaze After Derailment

By Anthonia Akitunde in News on Jun 20, 2009 9:00PM

Still image taken from CLTV video
A blazing train derailment in Rockford, Ill. resulted in one death, power loss and the evacuation of hundreds of residents. The Chicago-bound freight train had 74 of its 114 cars filled with ethanol, according to the Associated Press. As of Saturday morning, five rail cars were still burning, with officials concerned other cars may catch fire. Cars on the train hydroplaned in standing water as it approached a railroad crossing, according to witness reports to the Rockford Register-Star. However a Canadian National Railway Company spokesman said claims the derailment was “caused by a washout of the tracks” were under investigation.

The ethanol is expected to continue burning into “later Saturday,” said Kirk Wilson, a fire chief in nearby Rockton. Air pollution and toxic fumes remain a concern. Wilson said firefighters would wait until the ethanol burned itself out, calling the situation “very dangerous.” A woman waiting in a car for the train to cross near the derailment site was killed, according to a Winnebago County Coroner.

About 600 homes within a half-mile of the derailment were evacuated by officials. Residents will be able to return once environmental officials give them the go ahead. Some 1,000 ComEd customers lost power because of the derailment, according to a ComEd spokeswoman. [Associated Press via Chicago Breaking News]