Residents allowed to return home after train derailment forces evacuation of Irvine, Alberta

A number of CP train cars derailed near the hamlet of Irvine on Friday afternoon and an evacuation order that was issued for a seven kilometre radius around the area has been lifted.

Images of the incident showed a number of cars off the tracks on the east side of the community.

Irvine derailment

(The area was evacuated after several train cars derailed. Photo: Gerry Frost)

Alberta Emergency Alert bulletin was issued just before 5 p.m. advising all residents within a 7 km radius of the incident to evacuate the area because of a risk of chemical exposure.

Gerry Frost, from Calgary, was driving through the area on his way to Maple Creek when he came upon the scene.

“I was just driving along and all of a sudden saw a big dust up and then I looked and I saw train cars literally going straight up into the air and then smashing and then more going up the rails and smashing and then I saw smoke, it looked like there was going to be a fire and the first thing I thought of was ‘oh my God, I wonder if the locomotive went off and are guys trapped in it,” he said.

He stopped to see if he could help when he saw the destruction.

“I just went in to see if, I wanted to make sure that no one was in the wreck, like if people needed help. The only reason why I went is to get help for people period,” he said. “And the grass was on fire all over the place there and there was chemicals leaking out, dry chemicals leaking out of probably two of the cars, there was lumber everywhere.”

Frost says he was surprised how close the derailment was to the hamlet and that it could have been a lot worse.

“Where the wreck ended there was two cars and then after that there was a bunch of tankers so it could have got really ugly and it was really close to Irvine. I was really shocked when I drove by how close it was to Irvine, within another two minutes it would have destroyed the town.”

Residents who attended a meeting on Friday evening told CTV News that they were told that some of the cars contained flammable cargo.

Irvine derail

(Gerry Frost took this photo of smoke along the tracks near the derailment site)

CP Rail issued a statement late Friday evening saying the train derailed at 3:20 pm and was carrying styrene, which were leaking from the top valves. Officials said that the ‘small leaks were being contained’.

CP said in the release that none of the cars involved in the derailment had been breached but that it ‘had fire suppression systems on hand if required’.