LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- Federal and state officials are investigating an ethanol train derailment and fire in the southwest Minnesota town of Raymond, and according to law enforcement, town residents within one-half mile of the derailment have been evacuated.
The derailment occurred around 1 a.m. CDT on Thursday, according to information from the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, and officials say travel should be avoided to the town of about 800 residents about 90 miles west of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
"Emergency personnel were dispatched and soon located a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train that had numerous rail cars derail on the western edge of Raymond but within the city limits," the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's office said in a news release.
"Fire departments from Raymond and numerous area departments responded as several of the derailed tankers started on fire and were determined to be carrying a form of ethanol and others with a corn syrup liquid."
The sheriff said an evacuation area of one-half mile was established around the crash site, and law enforcement officers and other emergency medical service personnel assisted with the evacuation.
"Residents were instructed to leave their homes, and an emergency collection site for those with nowhere to go was established at the Central Minnesota Christian School building in nearby Prinsburg, Minnesota," the sheriff said.
"The site remains active as the fire is being contained; no travel is advised to the city of Raymond."
BNSF spokesperson Lena Kent said in a statement to DTN, "Approximately 22 cars carrying mixed freight including ethanol and corn syrup are reported to be derailed with four cars on fire. There are no other hazardous materials on the train and no injuries as a result of the incident. BNSF field personnel are onsite to assess the derailment site and are working closely with local first responders. Residents and businesses impacted by the incident can contact 866-243-4784 for assistance. The main track is blocked and an estimated time for reopening the line is not available. The cause of the incident is under investigation."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced he was joining state emergency management personnel on a visit Thursday to the derailment site and has been briefed by U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
Buttigieg offered a brief statement on Twitter, "FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) is on the ground after a BNSF train carrying ethanol derailed early this morning, leading to an evacuation in the area of Raymond, Minnesota. At present no injuries or fatalities have been reported. We are tracking closely as more details emerge and will be involved in investigation."
Multiple media reports said there was an explosion when the derailment occurred. In addition, Raymond Mayor and Assistant Fire Chief Ardell Tensen told Minnesota Public Radio the derailment was loud enough that some city firefighters heard cars crashing together on the western edge of town.
WCCO Minneapolis reporter Pauleen Le reported Thursday morning that local firefighters continue to monitor the fire.
"Raymond Assist. Fire Chief says they -- along with crews from neighboring communities -- have sprayed thousands and thousands of gallons of water on 22-car train derailment," Le reported on Twitter. "Cars were carrying ethanol and corn syrup. They're now letting the ethanol burn out."
Le said in a tweet about 50 to 60 Raymond residents had been evacuated.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation said Highway 23 is closed at Raymond from Kandiyohi CR1 to Chippewa CR1 and is expected to remain closed until noon on Friday.
Minnesota state Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, issued a statement following the derailment.
"First of all, I am grateful that this tragic situation has not resulted in any injuries or fatalities," Baker said.
"We all owe a debt of gratitude to our first responders who reacted quickly to evacuate the area and made sure residents could be moved to safety. I would also like to thank the generous residents of Prinsburg and the Central Minnesota Christian School for stepping up and making sure that the evacuated had a place to go. Moving forward, I remain in constant contact with city, county, state, and federal officials to make sure that the community has the support they need."
In addition, the Minnesota Red Cross is on the scene to provide shelter to the evacuated residents and to help emergency first responders.
Todd Neeley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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