Red Deer, Alberta: Train Derailment, Ammonia Spill Prompts Evacuation : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


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Alberta Sat Feb 3, 11:46 am

Ammonia spill prompts evacuation

A derailed tanker car spilling anhydrous ammonia has prompted an evacuation around Red Deer, Alberta. Everyone within a kilometre of the spill is being forced out of the area by authorities. The evacuation effects 500 people in surrounding businesses, hotels and homes. The leak has been contained and is not considered hazardous for people who aren't in the immediate area. The cleaning operation is expected to go well into this evening. The car was one of several that jumped the rails on Friday night.

-- Rachel Gibson (, February 03, 2001



Saturday, February 3, 2001

Ammonia leak in Red Deer

RED DEER, Alta. (CP) -- Hundreds of people were evacuated from homes and businesses in Red Deer on Saturday while crews worked to clean up an ammonia leak that seriously injured one man and closed one of Alberta's major highways.

The leak came from a tanker car that ruptured Friday night when a Canadian Pacific Railway train derailed in an industrial park in the central Alberta city. The rail car was carrying anhydrous ammonia, a fertilizer that is liquid in the tank but vapourizes as it escapes. The fumes can burn the lungs if inhaled or irritate moist areas of the body, such as the eyes.

Close to 1,000 people had been ordered out of the surrounding area by Saturday afternoon, said RCMP Const. Dan Doyle.

Doyle said one man who was taken to Red Deer Regional Hospital on Friday night was listed in critical condition Saturday. He wouldn't identify the man, except to say he was not an emergency worker or a CPR employee.

About 60 people had been cleared out from the immediate area Friday night, but city spokesman Kelly Kloss said Saturday's wider evacuation was ordered as a precaution during the cleanup.

"The reason that we're evacuating is that when we go to neutralize it . . . with water, there may be some what we call minor plumes," Kloss said. "They say a vicinity within a half a mile should be maintained as an open area while we're doing that, and that's just to be extremely cautious with it. But as far as to the residents in the area, there's generally no danger."

A state of emergency was declared for the duration of the cleanup, which Kloss said was expected to continue into Saturday evening.

"Evacuees should be prepared to leave their home for a 24-hour period," the city advised in a news release.

Residents were offered bus transportation out of the area and temporary accommodations at Red Deer College.

The leak also sent three RCMP officers to hospital Friday night with minor eye irritations. Two other people were treated by paramedics and released.

Officials with Agrium, the company that owns the product, headed to the scene to assist emergency crews in the cleanup.

"They will either cap this thing, stop it from leaking, or pump the product out," said Lieut. Peter Barron of emergency services.

The RCMP closed part of Highway 2, the major north-south highway linking Edmonton and Calgary, as a precaution after the accident.

They reopened it hours later, but closed it again Saturday morning because of concerns a wind shift could blow an ammonia vapour cloud across the road.

Michael Maracle, general manager of the Mojave Grill, told the Red Deer Advocate on Friday night that he first thought the odour was coming from some of his kitchen equipment.

But he went into the lounge and discovered it was strong there, too.

One of his regular customers recognized the smell right away and told him what it was and how to react.

"I hauled it for years," said Ward Graham, who sells heavy trucks. "It's very dangerous."

He advised Maracle to turn the water taps on and have people breath through clean, wet rags.

About 60 people were then evacuated from the Mojave Grill and another restaurant, a nearby hotel and the industrial park.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson', February 03, 2001.

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