CALGARY -- Calgary's mayor says Canadian Pacific Railway has apologized for the chaos caused by a train that derailed after a bridge over the swollen Bow River failed Thursday.
Emergency crews were working to pump all of the oil products off six tanker cars that were teetering on the broken bridge.
Naheed Nenshi lashed out at the railway Thursday morning, saying he had concerns about the timing of the bridge inspection in relation to flooding that swamped the city. He also wondered why railways are exempt from municipal regulations.
Railways are under federal jurisdiction and are responsible for their own inspections.
'Certainly once this crisis is over, I'll be looking for a lot of answers from a lot of people'
"How is it we don't have regulatory authority over this, but it's my guys down there risking their lives to fix it?" Nenshi asked.
"Certainly, once this crisis is over, I'll be looking for a lot of answers from a lot of people."
But on Thursday afternoon, after a conversation with CP (TSX:CP) CEO Hunter Harrison, the mayor softened his stance.
"He extended an apology to the citizens of Calgary for what has happened here," Nenshi said. "We both agreed, No. 1, our primary responsibility is to get this thing cleaned up and, No. 2, that we will work together much more and he reiterated safety in every community CP Rail runs through is a primary responsibility.
"I was happy to hear that commitment and now we'll see how well we're able to fix this problem."
CP (TSX:CP) issued a statement Thursday morning that said the bridge had been inspected on Saturday while the tracks had been examined Monday. However, Harrison later told reporters the bridge was inspected five times after floodwaters rose. And CP engineers at the scene said the bridge had actually been inspected 18 times since flooding began.
Harrison said it was "clearly" a failure of piers at the bottom of the river. The engineers blamed it on fast water scouring away gravel under the support.
"We couldn't have seen anything from an inspection on top unless there was severe movement as a result of the failure down below," Harrison said. "We would normally have probably put divers in to inspect, but the current was too fast. Somebody would have drowned if they had tried to go in there, plus the current was so fast, and it's so murky, you couldn't do an appropriate inspection."
Nenshi wondered if recent layoffs at CP had anything to do with the situation.
"I'll be very blunt. I'll probably get in trouble for saying this," Nenshi said. "We've seen a lot of people lose their jobs at CP over the last year. How many bridge inspectors did they fire?"
The company, however, said the number of bridge inspectors remained the same.
The derailed cars were carrying a product used to dilute raw oilsands bitumen. The product is also used as a solvent used in metal polishes, paint thinner, oil-based stains and paint. Five of the cars were full and one empty.
The bridge gave way after most of the train had crossed. Cars that were still on the tracks were pulled away from either end.
Acting Calgary fire chief Ken Uzeloc said crews had strung a cable through the railcars and secured it to another train carrying rocks so that if the bridge gave way, the cars wouldn't be carried down the river.
"The last thing we want is these cars floating down the river and causing problems downstream," Uzeloc said.
Crews were planning to pull another train along a parallel bridge so the cargo could be pumped off and the empty cars safely removed.
Bruce Burrell, Calgary's emergency management director, said the cars were not leaking, but booms were placed downriver in case of any spills.
-- The Canadian Press