Thirteen cars and two locomotives of an 81-car freight train derailed Wednesday in a remote location in the north of Dubuque, Iowa, while three of them caught fire, media reports said, citing Canadian Pacific railway. Three other cars reportedly fell into the Mississippi River. However, no injuries have been reported so far.
Most of the railway cars were carrying ethanol fuel and officials are concerned about an increased risk of explosion due to the fuel leaking into the river, Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported. Emergency medical responders were reportedly present at the scene in shifts.
“Right now, there is ethanol flowing into the river,” Dubuque Fire Chief Rick Steines, said, according to Dubuque Telegraph Herald, adding: “We’re not exactly sure the amount, but we can see evidence where it did get into the river.”
Officials were reportedly also worried about the risk of water contamination as nearby regions use the river's water for drinking purposes.
Steines said that nobody was being allowed within a half-mile of the burning cars as a precaution, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
Kevin Baskins, spokesperson for Iowa's Department of Natural Resources, told AP that his department sent officers to the scene to analyze the environmental impact, but they were not allowed to go close to the train. Officials in Davenport, Burlington and Keokuk, which use the Mississippi River as a source of drinking water, were notified about the accident, he said.
"CP's [Canadian Pacific] emergency protocols were immediately enacted and all safety precautions and measures are being taken as our crews respond to the incident," Salem Woodrow, railroad spokesperson, said, according to AP, adding: "At this time our focus is public safety and the environment."
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported that officials expected the fire to burn out on its own by the latter half of the day.
“The water supply is very limited,” Steines said, according to Dubuque Telegraph Herald, adding: “There’s no vehicle access to the point right now. So, there’s really no way for us to put water on the fire.”