By Blake Neff - 04/30/14 04:15 PM EDT
A train carrying crude oil derailed in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia Wednesday afternoon, sparking a large fire and spilling oil into the nearby James River.
The train, owned by CSX Corp, was passing through the city center at about 2 p.m. EDT when it derailed for unknown reasons and burst into flames. Fourteen cars derailed in the crash, and three or four of them began to leak oil, according to local television station WSLS 10.
JoAnn Martin, Lynchburg’s director of communications, said that some of the crude oil was leaking into the nearby James River.
The derailment is the latest in a series of oil train accidents that have occurred in the past year. In July 2013 an oil train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec killed 47 people. In November, 750,000 gallons were spilled from a train in Alabama, and Dec. 30 another major derailment happened near Casselton, N.D. The amount of oil spilled from U.S. trains in 2013 is greater than the total amount spilled in the entire period of 1975-2012, according to an analysis by McClatchy. The increase is driven by a dramatic rise in the amount of oil being moved by rail.
The recent string of accidents has led to bipartisan calls for more stringent rules governing rail shipments of crude oil and other hazardous materials.
A recently proposed rule from the Federal Railroad Administration would mandate that all oil trains have at least two crew members, and regulators may soon propose rules that would mandate replacing old tank cars with sturdier models.
The accident is not CSX’s first this year. In January, another train hauling crude oil derailed in Philadelphia, nearly sending an oil car tumbling into the river. No oil was ultimately spilled in that incident, however.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates transportation accidents in the U.S., announced about two hours after the crash that a team of investigators was being dispatched to the accident site.