Iowa officials end derailment evacuations

LESTER, Iowa (AP) — Evacuations forced by the derailment of 22 rail cars in far northwest Iowa ended Monday, a county official said.

Twenty-two cars on a train of 100 cars derailed Sunday morning, including one that spilled liquefied petroleum gas. Fears of a resulting explosion or fire prompted evacuations within a mile of the site two miles south of Lester. No injuries were reported.

Lyon County emergency management coordinator Wayne Jepsen said Monday afternoon that a berm had been built up around the leaking tanker car. BNSF Railway hazardous-materials workers made a hole in the car so the liquid could spill out, Jepsen said, and they set the gas on fire. The process allowed residents return to their homes, he said.

BNSF workers will monitor the fire until the material burns away, Jepsen said, and the Iowa Natural Resources Department will check for any environmental issues that remain.

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth said 11 of the cars that left the tracks were carrying hazardous materials, including crude oil and powdered cement, but none leaked any material.

The leaking tanker car was carrying about 23,000 gallons of liquefied petroleum gas, McBeth said.

BNSF crews worked all day Sunday and overnight to clear the rest of the cars from the derailment site. The railroad expects to have the track clear, repaired and back in full use on Tuesday, McBeth said.

The railroad was still investigating the cause of the derailment, although officials won't be able to examine the site closely until the burn-off process is complete.

Lester is 23 miles southeast of Sioux Falls, S.D., in the far northwest corner of Iowa.