Canadian Red Cross New Brunswick Derailment Response

Topics: New Brunswick, Emergencies and Disasters in Canada
January 14, 2014

When derailment of a locomotive and 19 of 122 cars of a CN Rail train resulted in fire in several derailed petroleum tank cars forced the evacuation of more than 100 people from homes in a rural area in northwest New Brunswick, a team of Canadian Red Cross disaster volunteers was in place within hours to help.

The operation using a community centre in the nearby village of Plaster Rock, NB, supported evacuees and derailment responders around the clock for nearly five days and came just at the tail end of a major ice storm over the holidays that saw power outages to over 50,000 customers in New Brunswick and larger numbers in Ontario and Quebec.

The derailment response involved 15 Red Cross volunteers and two staff who deployed from the Woodstock, Fredericton, Oromocto and Moncton areas and provided 24-hour staffing for reception, registration and information service for evacuees, helped arrange or deliver more than 400 meals, about 40 fuel gift cards plus truckloads of bottled water CN Rail made available to offset extraordinary travel for some evacuees and provide safe water until their private water wells could be tested to ensure no contamination.

“Our team also set up one room as a shelter with cots, blankets and other supplies,” said Marc Belliveau, Canadian Red Cross disaster management associate from Moncton who coordinated the operation on-site in Plaster Rock. In total, 481 hours of service was provided.

While all evacuated residents were able to find places to stay temporarily with relatives, friends or at motels in the area, the shelter still proved valuable as motel space was limited. “It was used at various times by 27 members of different response teams involved with the derailment,” said Belliveau.

The evacuation on January 7 affecting about 45 households within a two-kilometre radius of the derailment ended four days later for everyone except occupants of three houses near the derailment site.

Red Cross volunteers once again demonstrated their tireless commitment to assisting those impacted by disaster. And no sooner did that response end, teams in New Brunswick and elsewhere in the Atlantic provinces were on standby after mild temperatures, heavy rains and significant snow melt raised the risk of localized flooding. All these events serve to remind everyone of the importance of organizational and personal disaster preparedness.