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Two W. Virginia towns evacuated after derailed train cars hauling crude oil catch fire

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A CSX Corp train hauling North Dakota crude derailed in West Virginia on Monday, setting a number of cars ablaze, destroying a house and forcing the evacuation of two towns in the second significant oil-train incident in three days.

One or two of the cars plunged into the Kanawha River, and “a couple are burning,” said Robert Jelacic, night shift manager of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. There were no injuries or deaths, he said.

CSX said the train was hauling 109 cars from North Dakota to the coastal town of Yorktown, Virginia, where midstream firm Plains All American Pipelines runs an oil depot. It said one person was being treated for potential fume inhalation.

West Virginia State Police First Sergeant Greg Duckworth, who was at the crash site, told Reuters that nine or 10 of the cars had exploded at intervals of about every half hour. A similar sequence has occurred in a handful of other derailments over the past year and a half, with the fire from one tank heating up gases in the next nearest car, causing it to ignite.

“It’s a real mess down here,” Duckworth said. He said all but 14 of the cars on the train had been pulled out of harm’s way.

A 1-mile-wide area around the incident was being evacuated after a house caught fire because of the accident, Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, told Reuters.

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Heavy snow and frigid temperatures were hindering efforts to deal with the incident, Jelacic said.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a state of emergency for Kanawha and Fayette counties after the derailment.

The train derailed at 1:20 p.m. EST about 33 miles (54 km) southeast of Charleston, the state capital, according to Fayette County 911 Coordinator James Bennett.

The derailment occurred less than 200 miles (320 km) west of Lynchburg, Virginia, where another CSX train also bound for the Plains terminal in Yorktown derailed and erupted last April. Plains did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

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Local websites showed images of flames at times twice the height of nearby trees and a thick plume of black smoke near a partly frozen river, with a number of houses nearby.

RAIL SAFETY CONCERNS

The latest incident came just two days after a Canadian National Railways train from Alberta’s oil sands derailed in a wooded area of northern Ontario. CN said 29 of 100 cars were involved and seven caught fire. No injuries were reported, but the cars were still on fire on Monday.

A boom in oil shipments by rail and a spate of derailments across North America have put heightened focus on rail safety. In 2013, 47 people were killed in the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic after a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded.

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The latest incidents will likely refocus attention on U.S. and Canadian regulators’ efforts to improve the safety of such shipments, which have spurred concerns over both the flammability of very light oil from the North Dakota Bakken shale as well as the flawed design of older tank cars.

The U.S. Transportation Department has submitted a proposal to the White House to require adding an extra 1/8th inch of steel to most existing oil train tank shells, while new models would have the thicker hull installed on the factory floor.

It was unclear what kind of tank cars were involved in the derailment on Monday.

(Reporting by Kara Van Pelt in Beckley, W.Va. and Jonathan Leff in New York; Editing by Chris Reese, Tom Brown and Peter Cooney)

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Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Democrats in spirited first 2020 debate

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Ten Democrats clashed in the first debate of the 2020 presidential race Wednesday with Elizabeth Warren cementing her status as a top-tier candidate and several underdogs using the issue of immigration to clamor for the limelight.

The biggest American political debate since the 2016 presidential campaign is occurring over two nights in Miami, climaxing Thursday with former vice president Joe Biden squaring off against nine challengers, including number two candidate Bernie Sanders.

But Wednesday's first take was a spirited encounter between Democrats like ex-congressman Beto O'Rourke, Senator Cory Booker, former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on subjects as varied as health care, economic inequality, climate action, gun violence, Iran and immigration.

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Here are 4 winners and 9 losers from the first 2020 Democratic primary debate

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With ten candidates on stage Wednesday, the opening debate of the 2020 Democratic primary in Miami was a packed mess. And this was only the first course in a two-part event — 10 more candidates will debate on the following night.

A crowded field makes it difficult to stand out, and that means that even after a big night like a debate, the most likely result is that not much changes. But the debate was still significant, giving candidates the chance to exceed, meet, or fall below expectations for their performances.

Here's a list — necessarily subjective, of course — of the people who came out on the top when the dust was settled, and those who came out on the bottom.

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Here are 3 ways Julián Castro stood out in the first Democratic Debate

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There were many predictions going into the first Democratic debate on MSNBC, but no one predicted that Julián Castro would break out from the crowd.

Check out the top three ways Castro stood out from the crowd.

Immigration:

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development was the outright winner of the immigration section of the debate

It should "piss us all off," Castro said about the father and his little girl who were found face-down in the shores of the Rio Grande River this week. “It’s heartbreaking."

Castro is a second generation American who got into specifics on immigration policy, calling for an outright "Marshall Plan" style of action for Guatemala and Honduras. He joined with other Democrats calling for an end to President Donald Trump's family separation policy, but he then suggested ending the "metering" of legitimate asylum seekers.

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