Dozens Evacuated After Minnesota Train Derailment

BALATON, Minn. (AP) -- Dozens of residents of this small southwestern Minnesota town were told to leave their homes around midnight Tuesday after a train derailed and spilled at least 40,000 gallons of flammable ethanol.

Two rail cars from a Dakota Minnesota & Eastern train went off the tracks about 11 p.m. Tuesday. Officials at the scene suspected there was a leak in a third ethanol tanker and said a fourth tanker carrying soybean oil was also damaged.

About 75 residents in a three-block radius from the derailment were evacuated. Fifty of them spent the remainder of the night in the library at the Balaton Public School while the others were able to stay with relatives or friends.

``I heard it all,'' said Elienore Myhre, who was among a small group of people still at the school at midmorning Wednesday. ``It was a terrible, terrible noise. Like cars clanging when they get dropped off. It was something. All of a sudden it was quiet.''

No one was hurt.

The 75-car train was going east when it derailed near a ditch that drains into Lake Yankton. The leaking chemicals were held behind quickly built dikes, said Craig Shafer of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

He estimated nearly all the 30,000 gallons of ethanol in one tanker had leaked and another 15,000 gallons from a second tanker. The possible leak in a third tanker was smaller, he said.

Lynn Anderson, a DM&E spokesman, said an internal investigative team would try to determine the cause of the accident. The three crew members would be interviewed, but would not be required to take a drug test.

Anderson would not speculate on whether there was foul play involved. ``We will look at all aspects to determine what the cause could be,'' Anderson said.

Firefighters, other emergency personnel and private contractors continued cleaning the site Wednesday. Officials estimated it would take all day, and maybe longer. Balaton Fire Chief Greg Erickson didn't know when evacuated residents would return home.

Balaton is on U.S. Highway 14, about 20 miles south of Marshall in southwest Minnesota.