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Updated: Sat, 11 Jan 2014 19:13:20 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Plaster Rock derailment fires out, evacuees going home



Trains are rolling again through the section that had been closed due to the derailment. Matt Bingley/CBC

Trains are rolling again through the section that had been closed due to the derailment. Matt Bingley/CBC

Most evacuees from the CN Rail derailment near Plaster Rock, N.B., are heading home Saturday, but they're being warned not to use tap water. 

Officials said everyone except for those who live inside a 100 metre safety zone are able to return to their houses. 

"I have a medical condition — multiple chemical sensitivity — so even before I was told to evacuate, I started packing things up to get out," said Kim Geneau. "But with this derailment I've been taken out of my clean environment, which was inside my house."

She was relieved to be heading home. 

Bottled water for residents

Free bottled water was delivered to most houses, as residents are being told to not use the water until tests can confirm it is safe. The derailment site is contaminated with oil, but it's not known if it affected the water. 

Two fires caused by Tuesday's derailment burned out by Saturday morning and the line is open. Trains resumed running Saturday afternoon. 

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the controlled burn was ignited Friday to allow crews to move the cars safely.

Feeny said crews are making good progress. The derailed cars have been cleared off the track and crews are repairing the damaged track. He said 150 workers are on the scene near Plaster Rock, N.B.

Officials met with residents at 11 a.m. to update them on the situation. 

On Tuesday, nine of the train's rail cars carrying oil, butane and propane burst into flames. The materials posed a hazard to residents, inspectors and salvage workers.

The Transport Safety Board of Canada described it as a mixed freight train with 122 cars, three head-end locomotives and one remote locomotive. It left Toronto bound for Moncton. The board said 19 cars and the remote locomotive derailed.

"Investigators found a cracked wheel on a car near the front of the train. This wheel moved on the axle and lost track gauge, resulting in the derailment of that wheel set. There was also a broken rail," investigators reported. 

Investigators found 17 broken rails along the 16 kilometres of track before the pile-up.

On Friday, officials conducted a controlled burn to accelerate the blaze and bring the fire to an end.

About 150 people living in 50 homes within a two-kilometre radius of the derailment site in Wapske have spent three nights out of their homes since the derailment. Most are staying with family or friends.

TSB investigators will gather and analyze evidence from the incident before drawing conclusions about what caused the derailment and fire. 

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