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Mayor: N.D. town dodged a bullet in crude explosion

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published December 31, 2013 at 8:32 a.m. Updated December 31, 2013 at 8:56 a.m.

CASSELTON, N.D. — A southeastern North Dakota town narrowly escaped tragedy when a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded nearby, the mayor said Tuesday, calling for changes in how the fuel is transported across the U.S.

No one was hurt in Monday's derailment of the mile-long train that sent a great fireball and plumes of black smoke skyward about a mile from the small town of Casselton. The fire had been so intense as darkness fell that investigators couldn't get close enough to count the number of burning cars. The National Transportation Safety Board was preparing to investigate.

Most residents heeded a recommendation to evacuate their homes as strong winds blew potentially hazardous, acrid smoke toward the town overnight, Mayor Ed McConnell said early Tuesday.

"I drove in this morning and looked like most people had left. There weren't a lot of lights on," McConnell said.

The North Dakota Department of Health warned that exposure to burning crude could cause shortness of breath, coughing and itching and watery eyes. It had said those in the vicinity with respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis or emphysema should minimize outdoor activity.

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