01/12/2014 03:13 EST | Updated 03/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Last Plaster Rock derailment evacuees wait for all-clear

Most evacuees from the New Brunswick train derailment have returned home, but one couple are still stranded.

Barbara Bourgoin and her husband Steven Levesque were home when the derailment happened outside their house in Wapske. 

"It felt like an earthquake. Steven hollered my name and I came down. All we could see is flames. The whole house lit right up red," she said Sunday. 

They fled empty-handed. They went back once to get some items, but are still out of their home. 

CN spokesman Jim Feeny said the couple's house is within 100 metres of the derailment in Wapske and it hasn't been determined when they will be allowed to return.

"We are already there with those folks to examine the property and then an assessment will be done," Feeny said.

Aerial pictures of the derailment site near Plaster Rock showed that oil had flowed onto that property.

Bourgoin and Levesque are taking it one day at a time. CN is keeping them up to date on developments, they said, but they don't know when they'll be going home. 

Levesque praised the rail company's response. He said they will fix whatever needs repairing. "If it comes right down to building a new house, they would build a new house," he said. "I have faith in CN."

The couple also thanked Red Cross for helping them while they are unable to go home. 

Kim Geneau is also still out of her home. She has multiple-chemical sensitivities and won't go home until she's sure the air is clean. "It's been a bit of a challenge, but we're making out OK," she said. 

Her husband is taking an air-purifier to their home and will let her know when she can return.

Fire and explosion

About 150 people had to leave their homes Tuesday night when the 122-car train derailed, with 19 cars and one locomotive jumping the tracks. Five derailed tanker cars were carrying crude oil from Western Canada to an Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, N.B., while four other tankers carried liquefied petroleum gas.

The evacuation zone stretched in a two-kilometre radius from the derailment. Those returning home expressed their relief.

"This is the day we were waiting for," said Laurie Beaulieu after a meeting with CN and Environment Department officials.

"Everybody is happy of course. There is no other way to explain it."

Derek Green praised the work of CN and environment officials to get the site cleared so quickly.

"We're back in four days; it could have been 40," he added.

Fires that had raged at the site of the derailment in the community were extinguished early Saturday morning.

"It is essentially a matter of cleaning up now," Feeny said. "It has moved from an operations exercise to a remediation exercise."

Don't drink well water

He said CN will cover the costs of the cleanup and compensate those whose properties have been damaged and incurred expenses as a result of the evacuation.

"The next steps will be to remediate the site and the environmental concerns will be dealt with, and we are working hand in glove with New Brunswick Environment. That process will continue until it is complete, however long that takes."

On Friday, a huge fireball shot into the sky as crews blasted holes in three tanker cars carrying liquefied petroleum gas to allow vapour and gas to burn off. Fires involving a crude oil tanker and diesel fuel from a derailed locomotive had earlier burned out.

While people have returned home, the province's Health Department said as a precaution, people in the area with private wells should not drink their water until after they have been tested.

Richard Keeley, regional director with the Department of Environment and Local Government, said the water testing had begun.

CN has provided bottled water to homeowners who can't drink from their wells.

Investigators examining wreckage

The cause of the derailment remains under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. Feeny said investigators are still looking at the possibility that a wheel or axle problem on a freight car was to blame, but added that no conclusions have been reached.

Safety board spokesman John Cottreau said four of its investigators remained on the scene Saturday gathering information. It's not known when their investigation in Wapske will wrap up, he said.

"They're going to be there for as long as it takes to get the information they need," said Cottreau. "Noses are down and (they're) digging through the wreckage and looking to document as much as possible."

The first freight train passed through the derailment site Saturday two hours after residents returned to their homes.

CN's woes continued on the weekend after another train derailment in Burnaby, B.C.

RCMP Insp. Tim Shields said the train, which was a CP Rail train operated by a CN Rail crew, went off the tracks Saturday morning. Some of the cars were carrying coal, some of which spilled into a creek.

There were no reports of injuries or property damage.