Derailed train sets forest alight

Derailed train sets forest alight

28 February 2008

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New Zealand — Rural firefighters were expecting to be up all night last night, attempting to control a fire in a pine forest on farmland near Whangaehu. Wanganui Fire station officer Gary Wilson said rural fire officers and brigades from Wanganui, Marton and Ratana attended several fires in the Fordell area last night, after a milk train travelling north to Wanganui derailed at 7.45pm, setting fire to grass alongside the tracks.

The Wanganui Chronicle understands the train, which was dragging a wagon, travelled for more than 10 kilometres in partial derailment before coming to a halt near Okoia Rd, in the Matarawa Valley, north of Fordell.

Sparks from the friction of metal on metal had caused the fires, which appear to have spread to a pine forest near Whangaehu.

Mr Wilson said the fire brigades had taken a couple of hours to put out several 100-metre-long grass fires in the Matarawa Valley, where the train eventually stopped.

The pine forest blaze at Harrison Rd, near Whangaehu, continued to burn late into the night, as firefighters attempted to keep it under control.

“They need helicopters to put it out, but they can’t fly, as it’s too dark,” Mr Wilson said.

A witness at the scene said she saw the sleepers had been “all twisted up” and the area strewn with parts of the train’s undercarriage, but the train itself appeared to be intact.

St John Ambulance said they didn´t attend any callout to the derailment.

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