Smoke in the sky. A mile-long train carrying crude oil derailed and caused a series of explosions Monday outside a small North Dakota town. Black smoke filled the sky over Casselton, N.D., this morning as the Cass County Sheriff urged the town’s 2,400 residents to evacuate due to health concerns. The sheriff’s office said the National Weather Service was forecasting a shift in the weather that could increase potential health hazards. A shelter has been set up in Fargo, about 25 miles away. Investigators couldn’t get close to the blaze, and official estimates of how many train cars caught fire varied. BNSF Railway Co. said it believes about 20 cars caught fire after its oil train left the tracks at about 2:10 p.m. Monday. No one was hurt. The cars were still burning as darkness fell, and authorities said they would be allowed to burn out.
Another week for Jahi. Jahi McMath, the California girl declared brain dead after tonsil surgery, will remain on life support for at least another week after a state judge on Monday extended a deadline. McMath’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, hailed the decision as an answer to her prayers and a sign that she has been right to keep fighting for the teen, who, doctors have said, will never recover. The family maintained a vigil outside the Children’s Hospital in Oakland as the deadline approached. When Winkfield heard of the judge’s decision to push back the deadline, she wept and hugged relatives outside the hospital. “Who wants to know the date and the time their child would die?” Winkfield said. “I don't care what anyone has to say about what I'm doing. … I have to do what is right for me and for Jahi.” She said she does not believe her daughter is dead because her heart is still beating.
Coming to the table. The U.S. special envoy to South Sudan says the country’s warring factions have agreed to attend peace talks in Ethiopia even as violence continues to rage in the world’s newest country. Donald Booth told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the commitment of both sides is “a first but very important step to achieving a cessation of hostilities.” On Dec. 15 a fight among presidential guards in South Sudan spiraled into violence across the country, pitting opposing political groups and ethnic factions against each other. Ethiopia has been playing a leading role in trying to get South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his political rival, ousted Vice President Riek Machar, to the negotiating table amid continuing tension between both sides.
Still stuck. Three icebreaker ships have failed to reach a Russian research ship trapped in Antarctic ice. A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon will attempt to rescue the passengers as soon as weather conditions turn favorable. The 74 scientists, tourists, and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy have been stuck since Christmas Eve after a blizzard pushed sea ice around it, freezing it in place. The ship isn’t in danger of sinking, and there are weeks’ worth of supplies on board. The ship’s scientific team had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s century-old voyage to Antarctica. The crew will stay behind with the ship until the ice breaks up naturally, expedition spokesman Alvin Stone said. Winds from the east have been pounding the ship and pushing the ice around the vessel. A westerly wind would help break up the ice, but no one knows when the wind will change.