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Fire at Canada train derailment burns through the night

Flames and smoke are seen today at the site of a train derailment in Wapske, New Brunswick. 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. Reuters/Mathieu Belanger

TORONTO  (Reuters) - Fire burned into the early hours of Wednesday morning after a Canadian National Railway train carrying propane and crude oil derailed in New Brunswick, Canada, according to a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The broadcaster reached Tim Corbin, fire chief of nearby Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, before sunrise. He said emergency services would assess the situation once there was daylight.

"The biggest concern is the propane cars," Corbin told the CBC. "That's our biggest concern because if they happen to explode, we're looking at major damage."

He said he did not know whether the cars carrying propane or crude oil were part of the fire.

Corbin could not immediately be reached for an update after sunrise. Sharon DeWitt, emergency measures coordinator for Plaster Rock, said more information would be available later Wednesday morning.

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 on Tuesday.

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.

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 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.

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.

(Reporting by Solarina Ho and Jeffrey Hodgson in Toronto and Mary Wisniewski in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)