- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A train derailment Friday in southeast Mississippi sparked a small evacuation and highway closure after rail cars began leaking fuel oil.

An 85-car Canadian National Railway train that was traveling from Jackson, Miss., to Mobile, Ala., ran off the tracks Friday morning in New Augusta, a town of 650 people 20 miles southeast of Hattiesburg, said Canadian National Railway spokesman Patrick Waldron.

Waldron said 18 of the 85 cars derailed. There were no reported injuries, and the cause of the derailment is being investigated. Besides fuel oil, cars carrying methanol, rosin, fertilizer and fiberboard also derailed. Waldron said there was no fire or explosion.

Authorities closed U.S 98 as a precaution, forcing traffic to detour. The tracks parallel the four-lane highway but don’t cross it in New Augusta. Perry County Sheriff Jimmy Dale Smith said a trailer park and some nearby homes with about 50 residents were evacuated, and the American Red Cross opened a shelter in New Augusta.

Smith said that leaks had been stopped on three of four rail cars that were spilling fuel oil by midafternoon. He described the oil as “really thick” and said it had been contained before any could run off into streams that lead to the nearby Leaf River.

Railroad crews and a number of fire and police agencies responded to the spill.

“Hopefully, by later on this evening we can let people go home,” Smith said.

The transport of oil by train has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months across the United States and Canada, following a series of accidents resulting in fires or explosions.

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