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CN building bypass around derailed oil cars

Reuters/Staff –– Canadian National Railway’s westbound and eastbound trains are taking wide detours around a derailed train on its main line in northern Ontario while the company builds a bypass for traffic near the crash site.

The CN train carrying crude oil that derailed early Saturday near Gogama, Ont., about 100 km south of Timmins, was still on fire late Sunday, the company said at the time.

The derailment is the second on CN’s main line in the region in just three days and the third in less than a month. CN had just cleared and reopened the line Friday morning after a train derailed Thursday near Minnipuka, Ont., about 200 km west of Timmins.

“Fire suppression activities are beginning, as is construction of the track diversion,” CN spokesman Mark Hallman said in an email Sunday, adding that responders were working in shifts around the clock.

The railway said it confirmed that 38 cars were involved in the derailment. The train had 94 cars containing crude oil. CN did not yet have a definitive count of the number of cars that had caught fire.

CN said Monday afternoon it had detoured both westbound and eastbound traffic and is building a bypass in the area, “in order to eliminate the need for detours and reduce delays to customer shipments.”

The bypass construction work was expected to continue over the next 48 hours, CN said Monday. In the meantime, it’s still “undetermined” when the track will be passable. Traffic intended for that rail corridor remains subject to “significant delays,” the company said Sunday.

Ontario Provincial Police said Sunday on Twitter that the fire was burning at 80 per cent of its full size and posted a photo from that morning showing thick clouds of black smoke still coming from the site.

Hallman said air quality monitoring has indicated no air issues at either Gogama or a nearby aboriginal community.

The OPP reopened a nearby highway closed after the derailment, but warned there would be delays for residents as CN moves equipment.

The railway said Saturday that a bridge over a waterway had been damaged and five tank cars had landed in the water. Oil had leaked into the water and booms were deployed to try to contain it.

CN said the crude oil on the train originated in Alberta and was destined for Eastern Canada.

CN said the latest derailment occurred 3.2 km northwest of Gogama, just before 3 a.m. on Saturday, affecting rail traffic between Toronto and Winnipeg. Trips by Via Rail passenger trains between the two cities have been cancelled.

The federal Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating, noted Saturday that the accident occurred about 37 km from the site of a Feb. 14 accident involving a CN crude oil train.

— Jeffrey Hodgson is Reuters’ Canadian economics and markets editor in Toronto. Includes files from Network staff.

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