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Norfolk Southern crude oil train derails in Pa., 3 cars leak oil

NEW YORK - A Norfolk Southern Corp train carrying crude oil derailed in western Pennsylvania on Thursday, adding to a string of recent accidents that have prompted calls to increase safety standards.

There were no reports of injuries or fire at the scene, after 21 tank cars came off the track near an industrial park at a bend by the Kiskiminetas River in the town of Vandergrift, according to town and company officials.

The train, that was heading from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, was mainly carrying crude oil but included one car containing propane gas, one local official said.

Three tanks cars from a derailed train that had been carrying crude oil through Pennsylvania had leaked oil but the spillage from two of the cars has been stopped, train operator Norfolk Southern Corp said on Thursday.

It said 21 cars derailed of which 19 carried heavy crude oil and two carried liquefied petroleum gas. Norfolk Southern said about 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of oil spilled.

"During the derailment some of the rail cars struck a building which fabricates metal products. There were no injuries. There was no fire or explosion. There is no fire," a statement from the company said.

The train crashed into one building owned by MSI Corporation in the industrial complex. All employees had been accounted for, said Sandy Smythe, a public information officer with Westmoreland County's public safety department, which includes Vandergrift borough.

MSI declined to comment.

The area is being hit by a winter storm that is blanketing much of the U.S. Northeast with snow, though the conditions at the time of the train crash were "not bad," Smythe said.

This is the latest in a string of crude oil train derailments that has prompted calls for more stringent rules regulating the shipment of crude by rail that has soared in recent years as pipelines fail to keep up with growing supply.

It comes ahead of a Senate hearing about improving the safety of transporting crude by rail, which has become a major political issue as the incidents pile up. The hearing was scheduled for Thursday but was delayed by the snow.

Thursday's accident was the second in less than a month in Pennsylvania. A train hauling crude on a CSX Corp railroad jumped the tracks and nearly toppled over a bridge in Philadelphia on Jan. 20. There were no injuries or fire in that incident.

A train carrying Bakken oil from North Dakota last July derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing 47 people and decimating much of the small town.

Reacting to the incidents, U.S. and Canadian railroad companies, tank car owners and regulators are looking for ways to transport crude on the rails more safely. Much of the focus is on phasing out older tank cars, known as DOT-111s, that do not meet the latest safety standards.

DOT-111s built before 2011 are prone to puncture and fire during accidents, regulators say.

It is as yet unclear what type of cars were involved in Thursday's accident.