State of emergency declared in West Virginia after train derails, explodes

A train derailed and exploded in West Virginia on Monday. Crude oil from the train is leaking into the Kanawha River, officials said.
(John Raby / Associated Press)

A train derailment Monday afternoon in West Virginia caused multiple explosions and a massive fire, and the CSX-owned train is leaking crude oil into the Kanawha River, officials said.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency about 6 p.m. Eastern time.

Nearly three hours after that declaration, the fire was still burning, and 1,000 people had been evacuated, according to Lawrence Messina, the state’s public safety spokesman.


At least one home near the derailment in Fayette County caught fire and was destroyed, Messina said.

The derailment happened about 1:20 p.m. Eastern time as the 109-car train carrying Bakken crude oil was going from North Dakota to Yorktown, Va., Messina said. As many as 15 train cars were involved in the derailment and fire, he said.

“State officials are on site and will continue to work with local and federal officials, as well as CSX representatives, throughout the incident,” Tomblin said in a statement.

Crude oil from at least one of the rail cars is leaking into the Kanawha River, Messina said.

CSX said one person was treated for potential smoke inhalation and that no other injuries were reported.

West Virginia American Water shut down its Montgomery treatment plant because the facility draws water from an area near the incident.


“We expect that approximately 2,000 customers in the Montgomery area will lose their water service within a few hours if the plant remains shut down,” the company said on Facebook.

The plant will not be reopened until it is confirmed the water is safe, it said.

CSX said it was working with the American Red Cross and other organizations to address the needs of evacuees.

Some of the tanker cars exploded, and oil on a portion of the river caught fire after the derailment, according to the office of Kanawha County Emergency Management & Floodplain Management, which was assisting in the response.

Kanawha County is downriver from Fayette County, which is about 60 miles southeast of Charleston.

Heavy snow was falling in the area, but Messina said it was unclear if that would help extinguish the fire.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation, according to CSX.

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