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Train derails, killing 1 in US

A FREIGHT train hauling ethanol derailed in the United States on Friday night, triggering an explosion and fire that continued to burn. One person was killed and several were severely injured.

Officials evacuated the area on the edge of Rockford, Illinois, about 130 kilometers northwest of Chicago, moving people out of 600 homes amid concerns about air pollution and the chance that more of the Canadian National train's cars might catch fire.

Authorities said they would let the fire burn itself out.

"The situation is not under control, but we are making progress in getting it under control," said Kirk Wilson, a fire chief in nearby Rockton. "It's very dangerous. It's very explosive. We're not risking any firefighters' lives."

Winnebago County Coroner Sue Fiduccia said early yesterday that the person killed was a female who had been in a car waiting for the train to pass a crossing near the derailment site.

Fiduccia would not release the victim's name or age.

Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten said three other people from the car ran from the vehicle when it was bombarded with flying railroad ties and were severely burned by flaming ethanol from the explosion.

They were taken to OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in serious to critical condition.

One was later airlifted to Stroger Hospital in Chicago, Bergsten said.

The fire chief said the train had 114 cars, 74 of which were tankers filled with ethanol.

Witnesses told the Rockford Register-Star that cars on the Chicago-bound train began hydroplaning in standing water just as it approached the crossing. Some of them left the tracks moments before two of them exploded.

Patrick Waldron, spokesman for Canadian National, said the two crewmen on the train escaped injury. The engine was able to pull 64 cars still attached from the scene.

Rockton fire chief Wilson, whose department was one of at least 26 that responded to the derailment, said he expected the ethanol to continue burning until late yesterday.

"We're letting the product burn itself out," he said. "We can't get too close to it. We're observing everything through binoculars from about 60 to 90 meters away."

The cause of the derailment was under investigation, Wilson said.


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