Freight train derails near Lake Park
Eight to 10 cars of a westbound BNSF freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed on the west side of Lake Park shortly before 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said.
Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon told KFGO Radio in Fargo that several dozen people were evacuated from some rural homes downwind of the site as a precaution. Some of the cars contained batteries, ammonium nitrate, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid, he said.
Gordon told a reporter for DL Newspapers that it wasn't immediately clear if anything was leaking. But he said the chemicals present could be dangerous, especially if mixed together. Emergency crews were taking every precaution: Six fire trucks stood by on a road overlooking the railroad tracks on Wednesday afternoon, along with several deputies. A steady stream of curious motorists passed by to see the wreckage from several hundred yards away. Pedestrians were warned away from the site.
A Hazardous materials team from Fargo-Moorhead was dispatched to the site, located only about a mile or so west of Lake Park and visible from city outskirts.
Winds were favorable Wednesday night and Gordon said they would blow any hazardous fumes away from the city
If the winds shifted, however, he told the radio station it might be necessary to evacuate part of the community of about 830 people.
The container cars were piled up on top of another, so it was difficult to get an accurate count of the cars or get into the wreckage, the sheriff said. The derailment affected the middle section of the train.
The wreckage blocked both tracks of the railroad corridor, and a BNSF worker who was surveying the damage said he expected the wreckage to be cleared and the rail lines repaired within two days.
No injuries were reported, but authorities evacuated about six families living near the railroad as a precaution.
Lake Park Fire Chief Doug Larson said he didn't know what types of batteries were being carried aboard the train.
Gordon said the families were free to go home about 9:30 p.m., because there was no leakage reported.
He said cleanup could take about 16 hours from 9:30 p.m.
It was unclear when the tracks could be back in service.
BNSF officials, the Lake Park Fire Department and Fargo-Moorhead hazmat crews will be working through the night to clear the tracks.
Families who were affected by the evacuation were directed by authorities to the Lake Park City Center while they awaited word on when they would be able to return home.
Gloria Buhaug was working in her yard near Highway 10 in Lake Park when State Patrol officials approached her about 5 p.m. and told her to evacuate. She then called her son, Russ, who lives nearby and was on his way home from work in Fargo.
"They told us to get out now," Buhaug said, adding that she was concerned for her dog, who was left behind.
She said she didn't smell anything suspicious at the time.
The cause of the derailment is unknown.
(Forum reporter Benny Polacca contributed to this story)