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Controlled fireball at derailment site

A large fireball shot into the sky and a boom resounded Friday from the site of a train derailment in northwestern New Brunswick as officials carried out a controlled explosion to blast holes in three tanker cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas.

Thick plumes of black smoke billowed from the wreckage site after crews detonated explosive charges placed on the hulls of the cars in order to allow vapour and gas to burn off in a wooded area.

"Indications are that it proceeded as designed, but that is based on a helicopter inspection," CN spokesman Jim Feeny said after the explosion, carried out by the rail company and a crew from Louisiana with expertise in cleaning up derailed tankers.

The procedure, known as a vent and burn, was used on two tanker cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas that were burning prior to the explosion and a third one with the gas in it that was not on fire.

Feeny said ground crews have to wait for the site to cool off before checking out the site to determine whether all the liquefied petroleum gas was burned off.

He said the intent behind the explosion was to allow crews to move cars safely. It's the same type of explosion that was used following a CN train derailment in Gainford, Alta., in October.

Some tanker cars that derailed from the CN (TSX:CNR) freight train have been burning since Tuesday night in Wapske (Wob-ski), near Plaster Rock.

Feeny said fires from diesel fuel in a locomotive that derailed and a tanker car that was loaded with crude oil were no longer burning.

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