A train derailment prompted an immediate evacuation order for residents of Cypress County in the area of the hamlet of Irvine, Alta., on Friday afternoon. Shortly after 11 p.m., emergency officials said residents could return to their homes.
Alberta Emergency Alert said a train had derailed on the west side of the community along the north side of Highway 1 in Cypress County.
“The derailment involves damage along the railway line, chemical exposure and disruption of road and highway access,” the alert said.
“The train derailment affects a four-mile radius around the hamlet of Irvine.”
Before the evacuation order was lifted, residents within the four-mile radius were told they had to leave their homes.
Canadian Pacific Railway said the train derailed at about 3:20 p.m. and that teams were dispatched to the site. CP did not give any details on what the train was carrying.
“The small leaks previously identified on the two styrene cars were contained to their top valves, meaning the safety mechanisms on the cars were working as designed,” CP said in an emailed statement Saturday.
“CP estimates the amount of product spilled to be approximately eight litres, which was fully remediated.”
No injuries were reported as of 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Alberta Emergency Alert said an emergency evacuation reception centre was set up at the Cypress County administration office at 816 2 Avenue in the nearby hamlet of Dunmore.
WATCH: Residents of a hamlet in southeastern Alberta spent part of Friday afternoon and evening under an evacuation order after a train derailment east of Medicine Hat. Danica Ferris reports.
Highway 1 was closed in both directions for several hours between Highway 41 North and the hamlet of Walsh but was reopened after 9 p.m.
“However, access into the hamlet of Irvine is not permitted,” officials with Cypress County said at the time.
CP said Saturday that it reopened the rail line at 11 a.m. after repairs and inspections were done. An investigation is ongoing.
In photos sent to Global News by witnesses, several train cars could be seen off the rails and on their sides along the side of the highway.
Some were seen with smoke coming from them.
According to Sandra Fry, at least 20 cars had derailed and some were smoking.
Fry, who passed the scene on her way to Calgary, said the train cars were about 500 metres from the side of Highway 1 on tracks that appeared to be running parallel.
She said the locomotives were still on the tracks, as was the end of the train. The derailed cars were seen piled on top of each other and crammed together, with some really torn apart.
Before the evacuation order was lifted, Cypress County Councillor Robin Kurpjuweit said Friday afternoon that residents were being asked to check their properties and then head straight to the check-in station so officials know whose homes are OK and who is safe and sound.
“The first thing that goes through anyone’s mind is you want to look out for the safety of everybody,” Kurpjuweitsaid.
“And then after that, you want to kick into your training. So we have a lot of people who go through emergency and disaster training, so they have steps and protocols and procedures that are in place exactly for reasons like this so you don’t get too panicked or carried away.
“Right now we know that our staff has put the evacuation order in place and then we move on to the next step and make sure everybody’s safe.”
In a tweet posted by 511 Alberta at 4:23 p.m., the traffic advisory service said emergency crews were at the scene and drivers should expect significant delays.
–With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich