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The Bad Oil Boom: Train Explodes in Virginia Town While Regulators Chug Along

CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil are in flames after derailing in downtown Lynchburg, Va., on April 30
CSX tanker cars carrying crude oil are in flames after derailing in downtown Lynchburg, Va., on April 30Photograph by LuAnn Hunt/City of Lynchburg via AP Photo

A CSX train carrying crude oil derailed Wednesday afternoon in downtown Lynchburg, Va., prompting the evacuation of some 300 people. Six cars went off the tracks, and local news reports cite at least three breaches on a train carrying between 12 and 14 tank cars loaded with crude.

Early videos and pictures posted by onlookers show plumes of black smoke billowing up from the crash. No injuries have been reported yet, although witnesses described a floor-shaking explosion that sent a fireball almost 200 feet into the air. Early news reports indicate that oil has spilled into the nearby James River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. Cities downstream are switching to alternate sources of water.