Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More on Lac-Mégantic

Many more details are emerging on the Lac-Mégantic disaster.

MMA's chairman, Edward Burkhardt, was interviewed about the accident. His position is that the railway followed generally-accepted practices. He said the practices were obviously not sufficient and they have made changes already: the train will continue on to Sherbrooke and not change in Nantes, and the trains will not be left unmanned.

Burkhardt visited the scene today, and during media interviews he basically said the engineer didn't set enough hand brakes. "It seems an adequate number of hand brakes were not set, and this is the engineer's responsibility. I don't think he'll be back working with us." Apparently the train engineer, Tom Harding, pulled nine of the tank cars out of the way after the explosions started.

Here's a good piece describing how train brakes work and how trains are parked. MMA officials said that all five locomotives had their hand brakes on, but it did not say how many cars also had their hand brakes on. The accepted rule of thumb is 10% of the cars plus 2 brakes. For a train of 5 engines and 72 cars, at least 9 hand brakes should have been set. The fact that the train was on a slope should have been considered as well.

There is speculation that the initial explosions were caused by propane cars in the downtown. This makes more sense than the crude oil exploding. Crude will burn, of course, but it is not that volatile.

The cleanup continues, and the grisly task of finding and identifying bodies is part of that. The Quebec police are currently treating this as a crime scene. Mr. Burkhardt said that MMA has not been permitted access to the locomotives.

Many towns with railway tracks nearby are now questioning the railways. Rothesay, NB is questioning CN and Harvey, NB already talked to NB Southern. So is Ste-Anne, MB. I think it's good that they are questioning, so they can update their emergency response plans and be aware of the risks. I don't think it is realistic to expect the railways to share the exact consist of every train passing through, but it would be helpful for the towns to know what kind of cargoes travel through.

1 comment:

DRC in Bathurst said...

Derailment on the nepi sub last week also,

tore up the ties for about a mile before the engineer noticed