27 fuel tank cars carrying ethanol burst into flames on Friday morning after a freight train derailed in northwestern Iowa, authorities said. The flames from the train could be seen from at least eight miles away.
The derailment occurred around 1 a.m., near Graettinger, about 160 miles northwest of Des Moines, the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
It said two crew members escaped unharmed. Nearby residents were asked to evacuate the area and no injuries have been reported. Raquel Espinoza, a spokeswoman for Union Pacific, confirmed that the train is operated by that railroad company, but she declined to say more, referring questions to the National Transportation Safety Board.
Palo Alto County emergency management director Mark Hunefeld said at least 27 of 101 cars derailed, including the burning tanks. Eight cars were still burning as of 7 a.m., the sheriff’s office said. Railroad personnel were able to unhitch 74 loaded tankers and move them from the site. Sasha Forsen, spokeswoman for Green Plains Inc. in Omaha, Nebraska, confirmed that the tanks had been filled with ethanol at the company’s plant in Superior, Iowa. She declined to say where the shipment was heading.
NTSB spokesman Keith Holloway said agency investigators would be at the derailment site to determine the cause of the accident Friday afternoon.