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Train derails and catches fire near San Francisco, causing minor injuries and service disruptions

By Associated Press
Published: January 2, 2024, 7:30am

ORINDA, Calif. (AP) — Several people suffered minor injuries and service was disrupted when a commuter train derailed and caught fire on New Year’s Day in the San Francisco Bay Area, officials said.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit train had just left Orinda on its way to Lafayette around 9 a.m. Monday when the front two cars went off the track, agency spokesperson Jim Allison said.

All passengers were evacuated and fire crews quickly extinguished flames in two cars, he said.

Several passengers were taken to hospitals with minor injuries, Allison said. The total number of people injured wasn’t immediately known. The remaining passengers walked back to Orinda Station.

Passenger Enrique Gonzalez said the train was delayed and when it started moving again he heard a “few loud pops” and “saw smoke billowing out in between cars.”

“I was sitting right there at the window and saw the flames shoot up,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Early indications were that the derailment happened at an interlocking section of rail, where trains can switch from one track to another, Allison said. It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northeast of Oakland.

Officials didn’t immediately say how many people were on the train when it derailed.

Service was discontinued on a 12-mile (19-kilometer) stretch of rail between Rockridge and Walnut Creek in both directions, the Chronicle reported. BART officials said Orinda Station would likely be closed for the rest of the day as crews remove the damaged cars and inspect the tracks.

While the transit system was carrying fewer passengers than usual on New Year’s Day, the disruption will likely impact tens of thousands of people, Allison said.

“It’s certainly unfortunate people are stranded on a holiday like this,” he said.