U.S. investigating Minnesota train carrying ethanol that derailed, prompting evacuation

By David Shepardson and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration are investigating the derailment Thursday of a freight train carrying ethanol near a small town in Minnesota that prompted the evacuation of some residents.

The BNSF Railway-operated train derailed at 1:02 a.m. (0602 GMT) and caught fire, forcing some residents to evacuate in the small town of Raymond, Minnesota, about 110 miles (180 km) west of Minneapolis. No injuries have been reported.

BNSF, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc, said approximately 22 cars carrying mixed freight, including ethanol and corn syrup, were reported derailed with four cars on fire.

“The main track is blocked and an estimated time for reopening the line is not available. The cause of the incident is under investigation,” BNSF said on Twitter.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Twitter “we are tracking closely as more details emerge and will be involved in investigation.” Minnesota Governor Tim Walz said he spoke to Buttigieg and was headed to the scene. “The state stands ready to protect the health and safety of the community,” Walz said

The derailment of a freight train operated by Norfolk Southern in February released over a million gallons of hazardous materials and pollutants into the environment around the town of East Palestine, Ohio, prompting a lawsuit from the state, congressional hearings and investigations by U.S. agencies.

That derailment also cast new attention on derailments and calls to toughen U.S. laws and regulations. There are roughly 1,000 U.S. train derailments annually.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Rich McKay; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)