Compensation on the way for evacuees impacted by Gainford train derailment

EDMONTON – Residents who were forced from their homes by a train derailment west of Edmonton nearly two weeks ago will be compensated by CN Rail.

About 100 people were forced from their homes after a train carrying petroleum crude oil and liquefied petroleum gas came off the tracks in the hamlet of Gainford around 1:00 a.m. on October 19. Evacuees were displaced for four days, returning to their homes the night of October 22.

“It’s been really tough,” said Gainford resident Jeanette Hall, whose rented home across from the derailment site suffered the most damage.

“Things are just going really slow for me. I have nowhere to work and we still have nowhere to live. We’re still in the same hotel room that we were in when we were evacuated almost two weeks ago. So, it’s really tough, it’s taken its toll.”

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Hall is a taxidermist and rented the rural home with her husband in September, as place to live and work. Because of the extensive damage to the home, Hall says her landlord has requested the couple move out by Thursday morning.

“CN got me a moving company, so we’re going to load everything up. Where it’s supposed to go, I don’t know. They’re asking me for an address, but this is my address,” she said Wednesday afternoon.

CN risk management officers met with Gainford evacuees Tuesday to inform them of the compensation process. Details of exactly what will be compensated have not been released, but CN says it will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“We can’t get into the specifics about what’s going to be reimbursed. This is a one-on-one process with each of the individual evacuees, and CN will work with them to remediate any damages and any costs that were incurred,” CN spokesperson Warren Chandler explained.

As for how long it will take for all residents to be compensated, Chandler says there is no timeline.

“The process will take as long as it takes and we’ll work with each individual resident and we’ll work through the process with them and that process could take as long as necessary.”

Some residents say they’ve already signed off and are pleased with the compensation they will receive; others say they would have liked more, but just wanted to move on from the disaster. Evacuee Bruce Robertson says he doesn’t expect anything from CN, as he wasn’t really put out by the derailment.

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“I wasn’t particularly disrupted by the event. I just took to Edmonton, stayed in my mom’s basement,” he said, adding his only expense was gas.

“I don’t consider the amount they might offer as compensation to be worth the bother to track down,” Robertson said. “In my particular case, I’m not inclined to pursue them vigorously because it doesn’t amount to too much I’m put out for. I wasn’t staying in a motel or hotel or anything like that. As I said, if I had been, I would be after them.”

As for Hall, she says she feels lost.

“They said for us, we’ll be the last ones to be compensated since this is ongoing. But from what I understand we’re not going to be compensated past December.”

Hall says she’s contacted her MLA in hopes of speeding up the process. But for now, she says she simply feels stuck.

“I’m very worried. I have nowhere to work, I have no way to make an income….opening day is on Friday and I am already getting phone calls ‘where are we supposed to take our stuff?'”

Rail service in the community about 80 kilometres west of Edmonton has returned to normal. The Transportation Safety Board and CN are still investigating to determine what caused the derailment.

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With files from Vinesh Pratap, Global News.

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