Strathroy train derailment: Transportation Safety Board officials say one of the freight train cars was carrying flammable liquid propane gas residue
A rail-safety expert is praising the measured official response to Wednesday’s train derailment, saying it likely helped to avoid panic in the town.
After Wednesday’s derailment, officials and local politicians sent out public messages saying no hazardous materials were involved.
But it was later learned that one derailed car had carried liquid propane, which is highly flammable, and contained residual amounts of the material.
A second car carrying petro alkylate, used in the manufacture and preparation of products such as plastics, was perforated in the derailment, causing a minor leak.
Despite the seemingly conflicting reports, CN was right not to release those details right away, since they didn’t change the fact the public was never in any danger, said rail- safety consultant Richard Plokhaar.
“Here in Canada, after Lac-Megantic, it is difficult . . . to talk about these issues,” he said. “You have to be honest in telling (the public) what the real risk is . . . and the risk for the public here was low.”
Social media sometimes can distort the messages officials are trying to send out, doing more harm than good, Plokhaar said, arguing simply saying a train can carry hazardous materials can be misinterpreted.
“They’re still hazardous-goods trains. But that they don’t publish that to the public, that way, is very logical, because of this massive problem with misinformation with the internet,” he said. “What people understand, that’s the real problem.”
Yet, Plokhaar said CN isn’t entirely off the hook, since it’s not clear yet what caused the derailment.
“They did a good job today informing the public about the real risks . . . but the really big question remains, Why did the train derail? "
Strathroy-Caradoc Mayor Joanne Vanderheyden said the east-west railway line effectively divides the town, but the community caught a break.
“Most of the cars were either empty, or had paper in them, or soybeans,” she said. “So, nothing to be too worried about.”
Strathroy Age Dispatch
With files from The Canadian Press