Residents of Raymond have been allowed to return to their homes after hundreds of people were evacuated after a train carrying ethanol and corn syrup derailed and caught fire early Thursday.
It happened around 1 a.m. on the western edge of the town of about 800 people, about 15 miles southwest of Willmar and about two hours west of the Twin Cities.
A statement from BNSF Railway said no one was injured in the 22-car derailment, and the company currently has field crews working with local responders to mitigate the incident.
However, after the cars derailed, many carrying ethanol, a highly flammable liquid, caught fire and burned into the afternoon. Helicopter 5 captured aerial footage throughout the morning.
Kandiohi County Sheriff Eric Tollefson said knowing what was on the train helped officers make quick decisions.
“We knew pretty quickly what was on the train and we knew there was no major danger,” Sheriff Tollson said. “But they recommended an evacuation zone about half a mile away from the fire, and that’s the one in Raymond.”
Authorities knocked on hundreds of doors overnight to help evacuate residents and a site was set up at the Unity Christian Reformed Church in nearby Princeburg. It was there that local authorities requested community members to drop off any snacks or water, and A A platform for monetary donations has also been created online under the Willmar Area Response Fund. In addition, the Red Cross Responded to assist residents with shelter needs and canteen relief for responders.
Around 150 people arrived after 7am on Thursday. Evacuees had previously been gathering at Central Minnesota Christian School in Prinsburg.
The evacuation order was officially lifted at 11:45 a.m., allowing residents to return home.
RELATED: Minnesota leaders respond to train derailment that caused evacuation in Raymond
Gov. Tim Walls visited the site Thursday morning and spoke at a press conference with BNSF leaders and local officials at the church. The governor noted that the government is ready to help and many government agencies have already responded to the site. He also said that he is in touch with the state central government officials He spoke with US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
BNSF Vice President of Operations Matt Garland said the company’s experts deemed the area safe, but it was expected to take at least a few days to clean up the crash site. Katie Farmer, the company’s CEO, also spoke out and said BNSF should take responsibility for the derailment.
“We apologize for this, we take full responsibility for this and we will remain here until this is cleaned up,” said the farmer. “Certainly, I think we hear a lot about the continued derailment of East Palestine, and 99.99% of all hazardous materials are moved to their destination without incident. … So we’re very safe, we’re a very efficient movement of hazardous materials and all commodities.”
Residents affected by the derailment are urged to call BNSF for assistance at 866-243-4784.
The Kandiohi County Sheriff’s Office says road detours will be in place around the scene as local responders and BNSF crews continue to work to mitigate the incident. It is not yet clear when the main line will reopen or what caused the derailment, which remains under investigation.
The The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said Initial reports indicated eight cars were directly involved in the derailment, four containing corn syrup and four containing ethanol. The department adds that there are no requests for hazmat crews at this time, but the state fire marshal has dispatched a fire service specialist to help extinguish the fire.
The According to the National Transportation Safety Board Its team investigating the derailment is expected to arrive at the scene Thursday afternoon.
The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency tweeted that its crew members had also responded to the incident.
Rep. Baker shared the following written statement after the derailment:
“Firstly, I am thankful that there were no injuries or fatalities in this tragic situation.. We all owe a big thank you to our first responders who immediately evacuated the area and made sure the residents were moved to safety. I want to thank Princeburg and Central Minnesota Christian School for their generosity and making sure the evacuees have a place to go. Moving forward, I am in constant contact with city, county, state and federal officials to ensure the community receives the support it needs.
Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach (R-MN 7th District) also released a written statement:
“Thanks to the quick work of the first responders who assisted the Raymond community, I am informed that the fire is under control and no injuries have been reported. My team is on the ground with local authorities and will work to assist in any way we can.
State Senator Andrew Long (R-Olivia) issued a statement, which can be read below:
“Thank you to the first responders who acted quickly to deal with this situation and make sure everyone in and around the Raymond community is safe and accounted for. We must recognize and thank the surrounding communities and local organizations that immediately stepped up to ensure that everyone who was displaced had a place to go once the situation was over. I plan to be out today and am ready to provide any assistance needed.
This is a developing story and updates will be provided on air and online as more information becomes available.
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