Train Derailment Prompts Evacuation of Iowa Town; 2nd Crash in Minn. Under Investigation

May 18, 2021

SIBLEY, Iowa (AP) — Thick black smoke billowed into the air Sunday after a train derailed in northwest Iowa, prompting authorities to evacuate part of a small, nearby town.

It was the second derailment involving a Union Pacific train last weekend. Another train left the tracks near Goose Lake in Albert Lea, located 100 miles south of the Twins Cities, about 1:30 p.m. Saturday, the Albert Lea Police Department said in a Facebook post.

The fiery derailment in Iowa happened around 2 p.m. Sunday on the southwest edge of Sibley, which is a town of about 3,000 people roughly 200 miles (321.87 kilometers) northwest of Des Moines. There were no immediate reports of injuries related to the derailment.

Photos and video of the derailment posted online Sunday show dozens of train cars piled up along the tracks with flames and a large plume of smoke coming from one end of the pile of cars. Local media reports say authorities evacuated an area within 5 miles (8.05 kilometers) of the derailment.

Union Pacific spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said about 47 railcars came off the tracks during the derailment, but the train crew was not injured. She said the railroad is working with local authorities.

Tysver said the cause of the derailment is under investigation.

Sibley Fire Chief Ken Huls told KIWA radio the train was hauling fertilizer and ammonium nitrate.

Nate Minten of Sibley told the Des Moines Register that smoke was still visible around 4:30 p.m. Sunday from his mother’s home.

“I could see smoke filling up a couple hundred feet at least,” said Minten who posted aerial drone video of the derailment online, “We didn’t hear any bangs or anything.”

An emergency text message Minten received about the derailment said the western end of Sibley west of Second Avenue was being evacuated.

In the meantime, authorities say there is no risk to the public as cleanup continues on the train derailment in southeastern Minnesota. More than 20 cars derailed. There were no injuries.

Union Pacific Railroad crews led cleanup efforts over Saturday night and through Sunday, according to police. They had cleared eight cars from the track as of Sunday morning.

Crews also set up air quality monitoring units, which had detected no airborne substances, according to Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Rich Hall.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency joined monitoring efforts, Hall said.

Authorities asked the public remain out of the area as crews continue cleanup.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

About the photo: Smoke billows from a train derailment, Sunday, May 16, 2021, in Sibley, Iowa. Union Pacific spokeswoman Robynn Tysver said about 47 railcars came off the tracks during the derailment, but the train crew was not injured. (Mason Dockter/Sioux City Journal via AP)

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