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Cause of Baltimore train mishap a mystery

BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- A chief investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday several scenarios are being considered in the agency's investigation of the train derailment that has disrupted the city since last week.

"Nothing has been ruled out, everything has been ruled in, and we're beginning to take a detailed look," said Jay Kivowitz of the NTSB, listing human error, track problems, signal problems or equipment problems as possible causes of the accident.

The city has been cleaning up from the soupy, sooty mess since last Wednesday when a 60-car CSX train carrying hazardous materials derailed in a tunnel, sending out thick black smoke, snarling traffic, disrupting Internet service because of burned optic cable lines and forcing the postponement of baseball games at nearby Camden Yards. The games have since resumed.

Workers removed burning cars from the tunnel throughout the weekend, pulling out the last car just before 8 Monday morning. The train was carrying a number of hazardous materials, including tripropylene, a flammable liquid, and hydrochloric acid. It also was carrying wood and paper products, which in some cases served to fuel the fire.

Map of accident site  

A water main break on the same day of the accident in the vicinity of the tunnel initially cooled the fire but then contributed to the general mess. City crews will have to rebuild the entire intersection where the main broke.

City officials bristled at a suggestion that the water main break somehow contributed to the train derailment.

Public works spokesman Kurt Kocher said the train derailed at 3:08 p.m., and according to the city's charting system measuring water levels in reservoirs, the water main break did not occur until 6:15 or 6:20 p.m.

"Our job here is not to get into the blame game; our job is to provide information to the public," Kocher said. "We're not going to say this is the cause or that is the cause."

He added that CSX officials had performed an inspection of the Howard Street tunnel last Tuesday, the day before the accident, and had not reported any problems with it to the city.

Kivowitz said the city has given NTSB investigators all the documents concerning the water main that they've asked for, contrary to a report in the Washington Post Tuesday that said the city was not cooperating with the federal agency.

"The NTSB has enjoyed a complete cooperation [from] the police and fire department during this difficult period," he said.

Kivowitz said investigators are looking at a "representative piece" of the 100-year-old, 40-inch water main pipe and are sending to a lab in Washington "earth-like" material found on top of some of the boxcars.

• National Transportation Safety Board
• CSX Transportation
• Maryland Department of the Environment

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