Freight train derailment leaks 31,500 litres sulphuric acid in Australia

Freight train derailment leaks 31,500 litres sulphuric acid in Australia

12:06 PM, 29th December 2015
Freight train derailment leaks 31,500 litres sulphuric acid in Australia
Freight train carrying sulphuric acid derails near Julia Creek.

ULTIMO, AUSTRALIA: Up to 31,500 litres of sulphuric acid has possibly leaked from a freight train that derailed near Julia Creek in north-west Queensland.

The locomotive and all 26 wagons fell off the tracks about 20 kilometres east of the outback town. Queensland police has revised the amount of acid the freight train was carrying from 200,000 litres to 819,000 litres, and said one of the wagons has likely ruptured.

Authorities earlier said there was “minor leakage” of sulphuric acid and diesel fuel spillage at the crash site.

Inspector Trevor Kidd said police would look into the discrepancy."Either way, it's a substantial amount of sulphuric acid," he said.

Initial testing by Department of Environment and Heritage Protection to date indicates the nearby Horse Creek waterway has not been adversely affected by any leakage.

"No other ruptured carriages have been identified as leaking at this stage," a police statement said.

An emergency declaration and two-kilometre exclusion zone remains and is expected to be in place for 48 hours. It is expected authorities will have teams working on site today, depending on weather.

The Flinders Highway remains closed in both directions between Julia Creek and Richmond as a result of flooding and the exclusion zone.

It was initially estimated the clean-up would take a week but the timeframe is now not clear.

Engineers are trying to figure out what went wrong and whether floodwaters played a part.

The train is owned by Aurizon, previously the state freight-rail business.

The ABC does not know at this stage who owns the sulphuric acid or what it was to be used for.

Aurizon said in a statement the train was travelling from Townsville Port to Phosphate Hill.

"Four shipments of this type are made a week," it said.

All three drivers who were on the train sustained minor injuries but have since been released from hospital.

"The incident site remains under the control of Emergency Services and Aurizon is working closely with them, along with the Track Manager Queensland Rail and the owner of the derailed wagons in relation to the recovery of the site," Aurizon's statement said.

"Both Aurizon and Queensland Rail will investigate the incident and determine its cause."

Former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer, who wrote a book about 21st century trains, said after 50 years of talk it was time to upgrade and standardise Australian rail lines.

"It is just crazy that just a few days of the wet season has led to a very bad derailment and closure of the line yet again," he said.

"Now is the time to, not only standardise the Townsville to Mount Isa and ultimately Tennant Creek link, to do it to a higher level of construction."

© ABC News

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