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No mechanical defects on train that derailed in Saskatchewan: report


The Transportation Safety Board says its investigators have not found any mechanical defects on a train that derailed and spilled oil in northern Saskatchewan.

The Canadian Pacific Railway freight train jumped the tracks on Feb. 6 near Guernsey, about 115 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.

The accident sent flames and thick black smoke into the air and spilled 1.2 million litres of crude oil.

There were no reported injuries, but 85 residents were evacuated from the area for more than 24 hours.

Another derailment in December about 10 kilometres away on the same set of tracks spilled 1.5 million litres of oil and also caused a fire.

The safety board says in a preliminary report that 32 of 104 tank cars carrying oil derailed and several cars were breached.

“A review of the locomotive event recorder download determined that the train was handled in accordance with regulatory and company requirements,” says the report released Friday.

It says there is significant interest in examining the tank cars because they became an industry standard after the deadly rail disaster in Lac-Megantic, Que., in 2013.

Each tank car is to be cleaned and inspected, the agency said. Investigators are working with the United States National Transportation Safety Board and tank-car manufacturer Trinity.

Any tank car and track components of interest recovered from the derailment site will be sent to the agency’s engineering laboratory in Ottawa for analysis.

“Once site work is complete, all available information will be reviewed in order to make a more accurate assessment of the tank car damage sustained and the amount of product released,” the report says.

“This work will take some time.”

Shortly after the derailment, the federal government ordered lower speed limits for all trains carrying large amounts of dangerous goods. CP and Canadian National are limiting permits for shipments of dangerous goods.

The TSB said the amount of oil released from the most recent derailment hasn’t been determined, but Saskatchewan’s Environment Ministry said last week that 1.2 million litres of oil spilled.

The agency said a more precise estimate of the amount lost will be available once site work is complete. It said it does not appear that any waterways were affected.

“The product appeared to be primarily contained in a large ditch between the rail line and Highway 16 to the north of the rail line.”

Reeve Jack Gibney of the Rural Municipality of Usborne, which includes Guernsey, has said there is concern in the agricultural community over the two spills.

He has said that people are also worried about the safety of rail transport for oil and have suggested it’s time to look to pipelines. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2020

Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

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Woman returning from Iran is B.C.’s sixth case of new coronavirus



VANCOUVER — A sixth case of the novel coronavirus has been diagnosed in British Columbia after a woman in her 30s returned to the province from Iran.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Thursday the woman’s case is relatively mild and a number of her close contacts have already been put in isolation.

She said health officials are working on a detailed investigation of the woman’s travel and when her symptoms started to help determine if they need to notify those who travelled with her on the same aircraft.

Henry said the diagnosis shows B.C. has a robust system for identifying people who have the virus.

“This one, clearly, is a bit unusual in that the travel to Iran is something new,” she told a news conference.

“Iran has recently started reporting cases and we’ll be working with our national and international colleagues to better understand where she may have been exposed to this virus prior to her return to Canada.”

Henry said earlier this week that four of the five people already diagnosed with the virus were symptom free. The fifth person, a woman in her 30s who returned from Shanghai, China, is in isolation at her home in B.C.’s Interior.

Henry said over 500 people have been tested for the virus in B.C. and many of those tested positive for the flu.

Three cases of the virus have also been confirmed in Ontario.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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Government needs to produce plan for dealing with veterans’ backlog: Ombudsman



OTTAWA — Veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton says the federal government should clearly explain how it plans to eliminate a backlog that is keeping thousands of former service members waiting to find out if they qualify for benefits and aid.

The number of unaddressed applications for disability benefits and other assistance continues to grow despite repeated government promises to fix the problem.

Most recently, Veterans Affairs Canada revealed that there were 44,000 applications waiting to be processed at the end of September, which was a 10 per cent increase from six months earlier.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says eliminating the backlog is his top priority and the department is trying to move files along faster.

Yet Dalton says the government has not laid out a clear plan that includes specific actions and targets.

Dalton also says the government needs to invest more money and resources into tackling the backlog, which he worries is leaving some veterans at greater risk of financial and health problems.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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