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Ellendale evacuated after train derails

By Sam Wilmes and Sarah Stultz

ELLENDALE — Authorities evacuated Ellendale residents this morning after a Union Pacific train reportedly derailed south of the community, leaking butane and propane.

According to initial reports, Minnesota Highway 30 is closed going into Ellendale, and the NRHEG school district canceled classes because there was not access to the elementary school.

Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele said all Ellendale residents and anyone else within a one-mile radius of the derailment were evacuated because of the chemical leak.

All residents had been evacuated as of 10:15 a.m., and no injuries were reported.

Thiele said authorities received a call about the derailment at 5:43 a.m. The train was carrying 146 rail cars.

Ellendale residents were evacuated from their homes to United Methodist Church early Friday morning after a train derailment resulted in a butane and propane leak. - Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Ellendale residents were evacuated from their homes to United Methodist Church early Friday morning after a train derailment resulted in a butane and propane leak. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

It is unclear how many cars derailed, but authorities are evaluating two cars carrying propane and butane as well as any possible hot spots. 

A hazardous materials chemical assessment team from Rochester is preparing to begin assessing the situation, and residents remain evacuated until further notice, he said.

Firefighters and first responders from 20 agencies assisted with the evacuations of the 691-resident community.

First responders and evacuated residents met at United Methodist Church, where volunteers served breakfast.

Mark Domeier and his daughter, Jayna, 15, said they live a few blocks from the railroad line. They heard about the incident early on while listening to the radio and called law enforcement to find out what was going on.

They said they hoped nothing bad would happen and that everyone remained safe and things were cleaned up quickly.

Ellendale City Councilor Stephanie Kibler said she was confident in the first responders.

“The goal for all of us … is that we notify everybody, cleanup goes smoothly and everyone gets to return home as soon as possible,” Kibler said.

Alma Short was with relatives Rosa DeLeon and Jaidyn Rubio, 12, at the church. Short said she heard what she described as the derailment earlier in the morning and said she could see it from her kitchen window.

“It’s a very close-knit community in Ellendale,” she said. “Everybody responded quick.”

Look to the Tribune for more information as it becomes available.