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21 3.2.3 St. Gotthard Tunnel Fire tunnel that would allow separation of the northbound and southbound traffic flows. Location: Goeschenen and Airolo, Switzerland Date: October 24, 2001 Incident Category: crash and fire (road tunnel) Analysis of the Incident Tunnel Length: 10.6-mile (17-kilometer) single-bore At approximately 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday, October 24, tunnel 2001, a southbound truck and a northbound truck that was Fatalities and Injuries: 11 fatalities, injuries not tallied carrying tires struck each other in a head-on collision at a spot located approximately 4,900 feet (1.5 kilometers) from the Synopsis tunnel's southern end. Sparks from the collision ignited and spilled fuel from the trucks. Flames rapidly spread to the tires, A head-on collision of two trucks--one carrying tires-- resulting in thick black smoke that contributed to a zero- about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the tunnel's southern visibility level in the tunnel. The heat at the incident site entrance sparked an explosion and subsequent fire. Addi- rapidly climbed to 1,832F (1,000C), and it was later tionally, part of the tunnel's intermediate ceiling collapsed reported that explosions were heard as part of the ceiling over a distance of about 328 feet (100 meters). These two sep- collapsed from the intense heat. arate events combined to make the tunnel unapproachable because of temperatures as high as 1,832F (1,000C) and falling roof debris. Up to 40 cars and trucks were fused into a Fatalities and Injuries molten mass at the heart of the disaster zone. The incident Both truck drivers involved in the initial accident were resulted in 11 fatalities. Rescue efforts were hampered by the killed. There was speculation that one had been intoxicated extreme heat and the risk that additional sections of the tun- and had questionable driving experience, but only one of the nel roof might collapse. two bodies was in a condition sufficient to permit blood test- ing. Nine other people were killed, many seated in one of the 23 passenger vehicles involved in the accident. Some were Analysis of Pre-Incident Information and Events burned to death as they called for help from their vehicles and The St. Gotthard Tunnel is a 10.6-mile (17-kilometer) long, others had most likely reached safety but returned to their single-bore, two-lane tunnel linking the Swiss towns of vehicles to retrieve items left behind. Virtually all fatalities Goeschenen in the north with Airolo in the south, approxi- occurred within the "red zone," the 164-foot (50-meter) area mately 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the Italian border. It nearest the seat of the fire. Vehicles were completely melted, holds two lanes of traffic in its 25-foot (7.8-meter) width, and and some were welded together. when it opened to traffic in 1980, it was hailed as the safest of all the Alpine tunnels. Its safety features included a system of Fire and Emergency Response survival spaces at 820-foot (250-meter) intervals built to accommodate up to 70 people in an emergency; a safety cor- More than 300 people, including police, firefighters, and ridor that parallels the tunnel length, allowing rescuers to rescue workers, used five helicopters and 60 emergency vehi- quickly reach the scene of an accident (but too narrow for a cles in the rescue efforts, which were severely hampered by the rescue vehicle); and a state-of-the-art ventilation system that extreme heat and the risk that additional sections of the tun- allowed a total air exchange every 15 minutes. nel roof might collapse. The fire smoldered for 24 hours and While approximately five fires per year had been reported was finally put out more than 48 hours after it began. in the tunnel, it was considered a safe route for motorists, especially after the March 1999 Mont Blanc tunnel fire. Traf- Damage and Service Restoration fic in the St. Gotthard tunnel had increased substantially after the March 1999 fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel that links After the accident, police quickly closed the 10.6-mile (17- France and Italy. At the time of the St. Gotthard incident, the kilometer) tunnel. When Swiss President Moritz Leuenberger traffic in the St. Gotthard tunnel averaged 16,497 vehicles visited the site 24 hours after the incident, he described it as a daily. scene of total destruction and expressed amazement that so In the wake of the Mont Blanc fire, prior to the St. Gotthard many people had survived. incident, safety campaigners had been saying that it was only A team of 10 specialists spent the Monday following the a matter of time before such a disaster struck Switzerland. incident combing through charred vehicles and rubble in Safety advocates had demanded either a significant reduction search of victims in the "red zone." When the heat and smoke in freight traffic or the construction of a second tube to the dissipated, crews began building metal supports to shore up