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9 injured as BART train derails and catches fire, causes major delays

An aerial view shows a train derailed on tracks next to a multi-lane highway
BART is experiencing major delays on its yellow line after a partial derailment shut down service at multiple stations Monday. | Source: Brontë Wittpenn/San Francisco Chronicle/AP Photo

Nine people were hurt when a BART train derailed and caught fire Monday morning, shutting down service at two East Bay BART stations and causing major delays.

Around 9 a.m., the transit agency reported that an eastbound yellow line train—one of the first to leave early on the morning of New Year's Day—had gone off the tracks between Orinda and Lafayette stations just outside the Orinda station.

Two cars caught fire, but firefighters from the Moraga-Orinda Fire District extinguished the blazes.

The transit agency said passengers had been safely evacuated from the train and were escorted to Orinda Station by BART personnel. BART said that nobody suffered major injuries, but nine people were transported to medical facilities for evaluation following the incident.

In order to return the derailed train to the track, BART deployed a crane late Monday afternoon in the left eastbound lanes of Highway 24, which runs alongside the BART tracks. The equipment was expected to remain there for up to six hours, spokesperson James Allison said.

The two left eastbound lanes of Highway 24 closed at 3:49 p.m., according to a SigAlert. The closure was scheduled to go until 10 p.m. but could go later if further work is required, according to Caltrans spokesperson Vince Jacala.

Traffic was backing up along Highway 24 eastbound between the Caldecott Tunnel and Orinda Monday afternoon, according to the Caltrans traffic QuickMap.

BART rider Robert Prinz was among those who had to evacuate train cars after a derailment and a fire caused major delays to service.

Major delays were reported Monday morning in both directions following the dertailment. But around 12:30 p.m., BART reported that AC Transit bus service had been put in place between Rockridge and Walnut Creek to ferry passengers in both directions.

BART is still investigating exactly what caused the low-speed derailment, said chief BART spokesperson Jim Allison. He said that not long before the incident, the transit system's operations center told the train's operator to climb down and manually change the track alignment at a nearby interlocking, which are sections of track that allow trains to move from one track to another.

The manual change was required because BART's operations center could not do so remotely, although what caused that issue is currently not clear, Allison said.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at garrett@sfstandard.com