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Mayor: Town narrowly escaped a tragedy

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Posted: Dec 31, 2013 1:07 PM
Source: Associated Press

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Topics: north dakota, crude oil, train derailed, train fire

CASSELTON, N.D. - The mayor of a North Dakota town is calling for changes in how crude oil is transported across the country.

Casselton Mayor Ed McConnell says the town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying oil derailed and exploded nearby yesterday. No one was hurt in the derailment, which sent a great fireball and plumes of black smoke into the sky.

McConnell says most residents heeded a recommendation to leave their homes as strong winds blew potentially hazardous smoke toward the town overnight.

State health officials warned that exposure to burning crude could cause shortness of breath, coughing and watery eyes. Health experts have been testing the air quality in the area.

Residents say explosions took place for hours after the derailment, shaking their homes and businesses.

BNSF Railway says it believes about 20 cars caught fire after its oil train left the tracks yesterday afternoon.

The tracks run straight through the middle of Casselton, a town of 2,400 people about 25 miles west of Fargo. The mayor estimates that dozens of people could have been killed if the derailment had happened within city limits. He says shipping oil by pipeline has to be a better option.

IMAGE: Darrin Radermacher / ABC News

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