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TSB investigators at site of fiery Saskatchewan CP train derailment

TSB investigators at site of fiery Saskatchewan CP train derailment
WATCH: TSB said investigators are still looking into the cause of a fiery derailment in Saskatchewan.

Investigators from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada have accessed the site of a fiery train derailment in Saskatchewan.

A Canadian Pacific Railway train hauling crude oil derailed near Guernsey, Sask., just after midnight on Monday.

Officials said 34 cars came off the tracks and a number continued to burn 24 hours after the incident.

CP Rail train hauling crude derails east of Saskatoon
CP Rail train hauling crude derails east of Saskatoon

A TSB spokesperson said investigators are still looking into the cause of the derailment.

CP said emergency and hazmat crews were sent to the scene to work with local first responders to minimize the impact on the surrounding area.

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA) said roughly 100 personnel continue to work on suppressing the remaining fires, which are expected to be extinguished late Tuesday.

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Cleanup operations are underway and several damaged rail cars were removed, according to SPSA President Marlo Pritchard, and remaining cars will be taken away once it is safe to do so. About five to 10 acres of land is impacted, he said.

Derailed CP train in Saskatchewan erupts in flames
Derailed CP train in Saskatchewan erupts in flames

“It is about containment and working with the local communities to get things back on track as quickly as possible,” he told reporters.

The Ministry of Environment continues to monitor air quality and no advisories are in place. Environmental protection officers are monitoring the site and will assess the impact on the area when it is safe to do so.

Highway 16 between Plunkett and Guernsey reopened Tuesday afternoon.

A detour was previously set up south of Plunkett on Highway 365 toward Watrous, then north along Highway 668 to Guernsey, which is about 115 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

READ MORE: CP Rail to acquire railway that owns tracks involved in Lac-Mégantic train derailment

On Tuesday, members of the nearby Lanigan Fire Department got some rest after 14 members helped in the fire fight.

“Some guys spent about 24 hours in a row before they went and had a break. Some about 22 hours, some 16,” said fire Chief Barry Hooper.

In his 30 years with the volunteer department, Hooper said he’s never seen anything like this blaze. The magnitude of a previous derailment near Jansen, Sask., didn’t even come close.

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“Everything was so dark and black with smoke, you couldn’t see anything.”

One expert said rail issues are usually the cause of derailments.

Garland Chow is an emeritus associate professor at the Sauder School of Business and the University of British Columbia.

He told Global News that while it is too soon to determine the cause of the derailment, investigators will look at the tracks.

“Suddenly it’s not straight, it’s loose, might be potentially broken so there’s a gap between the two pieces of rail,” Chow said. “Any of those things could cause a derailment.”

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READ MORE: Rennie, Man. train derailment caused by wheel fracture, says Transportation Safety Board

Investigators will also be looking at the speed of the train, Chow said.

“If the speed of the train was too fast, that could’ve contributed to the derailment,” Chow said. “Even if there’s something wrong with the rail, sometimes if you go slow, you can get through it temporarily.”

The weather could also be a factor, according to Chow.

“In cold weather, that’s when (rail joints) start to break down,” he said. “Rail accident statistics indicate that over the years you have more accidents, rail derailments, in the winter than in the summer months.”

Ryan Kessler contributed to this copy