Yesterday in West Virginia, a train carrying crude oil derailed shortly before it exploded, destroying a home and displacing 1,000 residents in freezing temperatures. The 100-car oil tanker train derailed for an as-yet-unknown reason, sending at least 27 cars careening off the tracks. Multiple explosions occurred through the evening, culminating in massive fireballs that sent heat several miles from the accident site.

west virginia oil train explosion

The explosions continued long after the initial derailment, with the biggest blast around midnight. The heat from the fires was so intense that crews weren’t able to get close enough to the scene to investigate until early this morning. At least 15 of the derailed train cars caught fire, and there are still two or three cars that fire officials are watching suspiciously, according to Montgomery volunteer firefighter John McGinnis. Miraculously, only one person was injured.

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After multiple explosions through the late evening on Monday, the fire is now under control, but the accident may have lasting effects for the residents of the area. Oil from the crash spilled into the Kanawha River, which is a source of drinking water in several counties. According to a spokesperson for West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety reported that there was so much oil in the water that even parts of the river caught fire amid the multiple explosions. At least two water treatment plants shut down in response to the accident, interrupting water service for nearly 2,000 residents. The treatment plans will remain closed until officials can determine how much water leaked into the river.

Firefighters aren’t sure what caused the derailment, but they suspect the heavy snowfall and severe winter conditions were a contributing factor. This is the second major fire emergency in West Virginia this year stemming from energy transportation, following the gas pipeline explosion last month.


Images via Matt Heckel/Twitter