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Chemical train derails, explodes; 1,500 evacuated

A train carrying chemicals derailed and exploded in flames Sunday, injuring a father and son and forcing more than 1,500 people from their homes.

Twenty-six cars of the 59-car Canadian Pacific Railroad train derailed about 6:15 a.m., said CP spokesman John Bergene.

"It sounded like a snowplow and train and an airplane all going by at the same time," said Jay Stevens, captain of Burlington's volunteer fire department.

One car carrying propane exploded, and burning propane leaked from a hole in the car during the afternoon, authorities said. It burned itself out by evening and firefighters contained the blaze to a small pile of lumber, Fire Chief Don Schmitz said.

Firefighters, staying back at least 300 feet, sprayed about 800 gallons of water per minute to keep the flames from spreading to another tanker containing residue of a load of toluene, a flammable solvent, Schmitz said.

The derailed cars were carrying propane, lumber, salt cake and fish oil, Bergene said.

Ward County Sheriff Vern Erck said 16-year-old Chad Yale was critically burned when he tried to leave his mobile home about 500 feet from the railroad tracks. He was flown to a burn hospital in St. Paul, Minn., and was listed in critical condition.

The boy's father, Rodney, 44, was hospitalized in stable condition in Minot. Two other family members were unhurt but their mobile home was destroyed, authorities said.

Erck said between 1,500 and 2,000 people were evacuated. Most were in shelters in Minot, about 9 miles east. He said people would not be allowed to return home until today, and he expected that schools would be closed.

The train's three-member crew was being interviewed, and the cause of the derailment was under investigation, Bergene said.