North Dakota Town Urged to Evacuate After Train Derailment

Shifting winds may blow soot and smoke towards town of Casselton

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Residents of the small North Dakota town where two trains derailed in a fiery crash Monday were urged to evacuate the area on Tuesday morning, as officials warned plumes of potentially toxic smoke could blow into the area.

Officials in Cass County called on the 2,400 residents of Casselton, N.D. to leave their homes as winds shifted overnight, blowing smoke from the scene of the accident towards the town, the Associated Press reports. A majority of the town’s residents have left, the Star Tribune reports.

A grain train derailed approximately one mile west of Casselton on Monday afternoon, causing a second train carrying tanks of crude oil to derail. Both conductors escaped to safety, and there were no injuries reported. BNSF Railways said about 21 train cars were set on fire in the crash, setting off large fireballs visible from miles away.

Local authorities said they would let the cars burn out overnight before tackling the blaze, but said Casselton could soon be covered in black soot from smoke blown towards the town. The health implications remain to be seen. “Is it highly hazardous, or did most of it just burn off in the fire?” said Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney. “We just don’t know.”