Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rail Freight Accident Illustrates the Dangers of Hazardous Cargo by Any Method

Norfolk Southern Route Suffers Huge Explosion
Shipping News Feature

US – Generally rail carried cargo is considered to be one of the safest ways to move large amounts of hazardous chemicals, certainly, when compare to road haulage methods which would require multiple journeys given the quantities often involved, freight trains are usually seen as a reliable transport method.

When things go wrong however those same quantities can present enormous problems of a magnitude unimaginable to most highway users. Yesterday’s crash and subsequent explosion in Columbus, Ohio serves to illustrate both the rarity of such incidents but also illuminates the inherent dangers. The accident, which occurred on tracks managed by Norfolk Southern, media motto ‘Safety – Our Highest Priority’, was witnessed from as far as ten miles away as huge sheets of flame licked the night sky.

The crash apparently occurred when the train was travelling through a fairly innocuous bend reportedly at low speed with 98 cars laden with ethanol and corn syrup. Fortunately the incident occurred outside the metropolitan area of America’s sixteenth largest city and as it occurred at 2am most people were safely ensconced in their beds. Over 100 locals were quickly evacuated with only two reported injuries, those to people who, on seeing the first huge fireball, approached along the rail track to be met by a secondary explosion.

The video HERE gives an idea of the devastation caused to a rural area by the sixteen cars which derailed, three containing ethanol, but despite the potential for a much more serious situation had the accident happened in an urban environment a spokesperson for the American Association of Railroads (AAR) was quick to point out that around 1.8 million wagonloads of dangerous goods travelled by way of freight railroads in the US annually and accidents of this nature were exceedingly rare.