By Solarina Ho
Jan 7 (Reuters) - A Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derailed and caught fire on Tuesday in northwest New Brunswick, Canada, the latest in a string of train accidents that have put the surging crude-by-rail business under heavy scrutiny.
No one was injured but about 45 nearby homes were evacuated when the train derailed near the village of Plaster Rock at about 7 p.m. local time (2300 GMT), local officials and the railroad said.
The train originated in Toronto and was headed to Moncton, New Brunswick, which is about 300 km (186 miles) east of the site of the accident, said Jim Feeny, director of public and government affairs at CN.
This latest derailment comes a little more than a week after a train carrying crude oil in the booming oil state of North Dakota derailed and exploded.
A series of disastrous derailments has reignited the push for tougher regulation. A surge in U.S. oil production has drastically increased the number of oil trains moving across the continent as pipelines fail to keep up with growing supply.
In Tuesday's accident, 15 cars and one unmanned locomotive appeared to have derailed, mostly toward the the rear of the train, including four loads of propane and four loads of crude oil, said Feeny.
"At this point, we cannot confirm that they're involved in the fire. They are in the fire area. Because of the fire, emergency responders can't approach too closely," he said.
The train had a total of 122 cars and four locomotives.
Feeny could not say what kind of crude oil the train was carrying and declined to say which customers were involved.
Feeney said CN crews have begun arriving and senior executives were also en route.
Fire officials say the cars appear to have been mostly empty except for some propane residue, said Sharon DeWitt, emergency measures coordinator for Plaster Rock.
"They'll in all probability burn themselves out by morning," said DeWitt. "We'll monitor it." She said there is no danger to residents as the wind is blowing away from Plaster Rock, a village of about 1,000 in a mainly wooded area about 50 km (31 miles) from the U.S. border and Maine.
There have been five major accidents in the past year involving a train carrying crude oil. The most devastating occurred in Quebec in July last year, when a runaway train derailed and exploded in the heart of the town of Lac Megantic, killing 47.
Some U.S. politicians have called for a phase-out or retrofit of old tankers that do not meet current safety standards and are prone to puncture.