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Town evacuated after crude oil train explodes

PennEnergy reports that a mile-long crude-oil transportation train collided with a second train carrying grain on Dec. 30, 2013, causing a massive explosion that prompted the evacuation of a small, nearby North Dakota town. The 2,400 residents of Casselton, North Dakota were permitted to return to their homes the following day, once concerns of dangerous fumes had been minimized. No injuries have been reported.

The accident occurred when a train carrying grain derailed, knocking a mile-long crude-oil train off adjoining tracks. One of those train cars exploded, launching a mushroom cloud and massive fireball into the sky, and causing a large fire that burned for several days. Flames from the explosion could be seen as many as 15 miles away. Both trains included more than 100 cars, the bulk of which stayed on track and were able to pull away from the derailment location.

The fire, made up in large part by burning crude oil, prompted authorities to evacuate nearby Casselton to protect residents from particulate matter in the smoke. Once permitted to return home, residents were warned that smoke and small flare-ups were possible over the next few days.

An investigation into the accident has led to a theory concerning the flammability of Bakken crude. Officials are now working to determine whether crude from the region could be more explosive or flammable than other crude oils.

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