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28 at the lower station. A leaky tube of hydraulic oil came into eiba.tuwien.ac.at/institute/presse/ee-csm-16112000.html contact with the glowing heater, nearby wooden panels, and (Accessed Nov. 8, 2004). isolation materials. These things became soaked with oil and McGillivray, G. (May 2001). "The Fire Within Tunnels." caught fire, either in the departure station or on the way up Canadian Consulting Engineer, pp. 1822. the mountain. Opstad, K. (Nov. 1819, 2003). "Fire Hazards in Tunnels Austrian investigators found that the ski train suffered and Underground Installations." In International Sympo- technical problems before it entered the tunnel. They based sium on the Fusion Technology of Geosystem Engineering, their analysis on plastic-like debris found on the rails near the Rock Engineering and Geophysical Exploration, Seoul, tunnel mouth that indicated that a fire could have broken out Korea. before the train went into the tunnel. "Toxic Fumes Hamper Bid to Retrieve Austria Blaze Bod- Investigators also pointed out that a larger cross-sectional ies" (2000, Nov. 12). CNN.com Available: http://archives.cnn. area might have given the passengers more time for com/2000/WORLD/europe/11/12/austria.fire.02/index.html evacuation. (Accessed Nov. 8, 2004). Officials in ski resorts throughout Austria shut down five similar train systems for safety checks following claims that the Kitzsteinhorn train was not properly fitted with safety 3.2.6 Mont Blanc Tunnel Fire devices, such as a sprinkler system, and did not have enough Location: Chamonix, France/Courmayeur, emergency exits or fire extinguishers. An allegation was made Italy that an evacuation drill had never been carried out. In direct Date: March 24, 1999 response to the incident, the French government announced Incident Category: fire that it would institute immediate safety checks on all its funic- Tunnel Length: 7.3 miles (11.6 kilometers); single- ular railroads. bore, reinforced concrete; two traffic The incident had parallels with the 1987 King's Cross Tube lanes; 28-foot (8.6-meter) width Station fire in London, where the escalator shaft at the center Fatalities and Injuries: 39 fatalities, injuries not tallied of the fire had a 30-degree incline that, like the Kitzsteinhorn tunnel fire, created a chimney effect. The Kitzsteinhorn blaze moved faster than the King's Cross fire because of an even Synopsis steeper incline. A truck carrying margarine and flour entered the 7.3-mile (11.6-kilometer)-long Mont Blanc Tunnel from France, References caught fire, and stopped in the tunnel, where it burst into "Acquittal Stuns Families of Cable Car Fire Victims" flames. The fire, which was fueled in part by the margarine, (2004, Feb. 20). Guardian Unlimited. Available: http://www. reached temperatures of 1,832°F (1,000°C), trapping approx- guardian.co.uk/austria/article/0,2763,1152334,00.html imately 40 vehicles in dense and poisonous smoke. (Accessed Nov. 8, 2004). Anderson, T., & Paaske, B.J. (2002). "Safety in Railway Analysis of Pre-Incident Information and Events Tunnels and Selection of Tunnel Concept." Paper presented at the ESReDA 23rd Seminar, Nov. 1819, Delft University, The Mont Blanc Tunnel is a major Alpine automotive Netherlands. Available: www.dnv.com/binaries/SafetyinRail tunnel connecting the cities of Chamonix in Haute-Savoie, wayTunnels_tcm4-10754.pdf (Accessed Jan. 6, 2005). France, and Courmayeur in Valle d'Aosta, Italy. Situated "Austrians Mourn 170 Killed in Cable-Car Fire" (Nov. 11, under the highest mountain in Europe, the Mont Blanc 2000). CNN.com. Available: http://archives.cnn.com/2000/ massif, the tunnel was notable for its approach to ventila- WORLD/europe/11/11/austria.fire.03/index.html (Accessed tion and was the first large rock tunnel to be excavated full Nov. 8, 2004). face, with the entire diameter of the tunnel bore drilled and Connolly, K. (Nov. 14, 2000). "Teams Recover Bodies from blasted. It was operated by two separate agencies, the Austrian Train." The Guardian. Available: http://www. Autoroutes et Tunnels du Mont Blanc (ATMB) in France guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,397088,00.html and the Società Italia per l`Esercizio del Traforo del Monte (Accessed Aug. 27, 2004). Bianco (SITMB) in Italy. Although ventilation and safety Hamer, M. (Nov. 18, 2000). "What Fed the Inferno?" New systems existed on both sides and were operated by French Scientist, p. 44. and Italian personnel, the systems differed in a number of Kim, L. (Nov. 16, 2000)."Austria Ponders Tragedy's Lessons." ways and there was little consultation between the two The Christian Science Monitor. Available: http://www. agencies.
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29 Begun in 1957 and completed in 1965, the tunnel is a major traffic 9 minutes later, 1 motorcycle, 10 passenger vehicles, trans-Alpine transport route, particularly for Italy, which and 18 trucks had also entered the tunnel. Four trucks passed relies on the tunnel to ship as much as one-third of its freight the burning truck after it had stopped, and 26 vehicles were bound for northern Europe. For the French, it is a passage for trapped. exports to Italy and a tourist route to the south. It was At 10:54 a.m., the Italian control room was informed by designed to carry 450,000 vehicles per year, but by 1997 it was phone that smoke had been detected on the video monitors being used by 1.1 million vehicles per year. In 1974, one per- between Lay-Bys 16 and 21. The siren on the French side went son was injured in a truck fire that lasted about 15 minutes; off at the same time. A minute later all traffic lights in the in 1990, two people were injured when a fire occurred in a direction from France to Italy turned red and a truck backed truck loaded with cotton. up to yield to emergency vehicles, although two other vehicles Lay-bys are located every 300 meters, alternating on each continued into the tunnel. side of the carriageway, and numbered 1 to 36 from France to The obscuration detector in Lay-By 18 set off a visual and Italy. In front of each one, a gallery makes it possible for audio alarm at the French control station. The operator at the heavy-goods vehicles to do U-turns. Shelters supplied with control station acknowledged the alarm. Observation of cam- fresh air and protected from the tunnel by a wall with a eras in Lay-Bys 16, 17, 18, and 19 indicated that smoke had 2-hour fire rating are located every 600 meters. surrounded the truck. Although the French fire detection system in the tunnel had heat sensors every 26 feet (8 meters) programmed to Analysis of the Incident sound when temperatures rose over 122°F (50°C), it did not Wednesday, March 24, 1999, was a day with average traffic sound an alarm while the burning vehicle was moving. The flow in and out of the tunnel. Between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., first French alarm sounded at 11:13 a.m. from Lay-By 19. By about 165 vehicles drove from France to Italy. This traffic then, temperatures were estimated to have been higher than translated to roughly four vehicles per minute entering the 1,832°F (1,000°C). The Italian detection system relied on 230- tunnel and traveling at 50 mph (80 kilometers per hour), with to 260-foot (70- to 80-meter) sealed tubes containing a spe- an average of 980 feet (300 meters) between vehicles. Weather cial gas. The system had been prone to false alarms, and, conditions were normal; rain clouds had cleared and the because the tubes at Lay-By 21 (where the truck stopped) had warm southern wind called die Föhn blew from the Italian given false alarms the night before, they were off and could side of the tunnel. A medium wind blew, as usual, inside the not signal any fire. tunnel from south to north. The smoke changed almost immediately from white to One of the trucks that entered the tunnel from the French black, and the fire quickly entered the cab. The trailer, which side was a Volvo FH12 tractor-trailer driven by Gilbert was constructed of flammable isothermal foam, caught fire Degraves, a 57-year-old Belgian trucker with 25 years of later. The cargo of margarine was transformed into a com- experience. He was hauling a refrigerated trailer loaded bustible liquid as it melted and ran out of the trailer and with nine tons of margarine and 12 tons of flour. Although spread onto the road. nothing abnormal was visible to the driver, later investiga- On the Italian side, the drivers of the eight trucks that had tions estimated that the fire started about 10:46 a.m. and stopped before Lay-By 22 left their cabs when they observed was fueled by the 145 gallons (550 liters) of diesel in the black smoke. The tunnel is too narrow for trucks to make a U- truck's tank. turn, so the drivers fled on foot. All escaped, possibly because At 10:53 a.m., Degraves was alerted that something was the airflow from Italy to France was blowing the smoke away wrong when he noticed that oncoming cars were flashing from them. Drivers on the French side left their vehicles and ran their headlights at him. Through his rearview mirror, he saw back toward the French entrance. They died, probably of toxic white smoke on the right side of his truck, and stopped at smoke, between 660 and 790 feet (200 and 240 meters) from the Mile 3.8 (Kilometer 6.2). After allowing a truck coming from fire. The majority of drivers on either side further away from the the opposite direction to pass, he exited his vehicle. He stated fire stayed in or near their vehicles; 27 were found dead in the later that he had tried to reach the fire extinguisher under the wrecks, nine were found outside their vehicles. It took no more left seat to extinguish a fire between the cab and the trailer, but than 10 minutes for the tunnel to fill with combustion gases. flames had burst out on both sides of the cab. Other truckers noticed white smoke swirling toward the Fatalities and Injuries tunnel's ceiling at 10:56 a.m. At about the same time, auto- matic video cameras detected cars turning into Lay-By 22. Thirty-nine people died, including one firefighter. Post- People on foot were also visible there. Between the time the incident analysis determined that most died within 15 min- Belgian truck entered the tunnel and the time it was closed to utes of fire detection. Of the 38 nonfirefighters who died,
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30 27 stayed in their vehicles, 2 took refuge in another vehicle, permit a higher level of firefighting machinery to be employed. and 9 died outside their vehicles. Of these 9, a motorcyclist Both nations' firefighting efforts were hampered when, by and a car driver died in Shelter 20 near the fire zone. 11:01 a.m., the lighting equipment, the French sprinkler sys- tem, and the Italian exhaust dampers failed in the tunnel. At just short of 8 hours into the incident, French firefight- Fire and Emergency Response ers rescued six people in Shelter 17. This was the final rescue Emergency response was provided by tunnel employees that firefighters were able to mount. and fire departments from France and Italy. A French Although the tunnel originally was constructed with a full employee coming from Italy drove past Lay-By 22 and crossed transverse ventilation system, by the time of the fire the sys- a thick wall of smoke that filled the whole cross section for a tem was transformed into semi-transverse ventilation that distance of 330 to 660 feet (100 to 200 meters). He reached was limited to exhausting air. The change had been made to within 33 feet (10 meters) of the burning truck as an Italian accommodate the increased truck traffic in excess of what had employee came from the opposite side. This Italian employee been anticipated at the time of construction, since the traffic on the French side at 10:56 a.m. likely drove a motorcycle into mix called for a greater amount of fresh air. the tunnel, where he encountered people fleeing on foot. He When the Italian operator saw people fleeing on foot, he advised them to keep to the side with the fresh air outlets and judged that it was preferable to introduce oxygen to give those he continued to drive wearing a breathing device. He got people a chance instead of switching the ventilation to maxi- within 23 feet (7 meters) of the Belgian truck and saw a burn- mum extraction. The added oxygen helped the flames spread ing cab and lamps and cables tumbling down from the ceil- rapidly and created a strong blow of toxic smoke towards the ing. He returned to the French side to report this, and then French side. The French extraction capacity was insufficient to reentered the tunnel to help more people. He reportedly saved get rid of this air, so it blew right through the tunnel. Since no at least 10 people from death but was unable to save himself; one was injured on the Italian side, the decision may have saved he died at Shelter 20 along with a driver from a passenger car. some people, although it probably added to the deaths on the Fire department responses began 11 minutes after the fire, French side. Nature also played a role: As the incident unfolded, when, at 10:57 a.m., a pumper engine with four firefighters, an air stream (Föhn) blew from the Italian to the French side. extinguishers, and breathing devices; a rescue vehicle with Investigators later reported that the tunnel operators knew additional equipment; and an ambulance entered the tunnel of deficiencies in the ventilation system but had done little to from France. When the French Central Alarm Center was correct them. The problems were exacerbated by gases that alerted to the fire at 10:58 a.m., it forwarded the alarm to the were present in the tunnel, the foam insulation of the trailer Main Rescue Center in Chamonix at the same time that an that produced nitrogen oxides, and the burning margarine; alarm was pulled at Lay-By 21. At the time, the four French all of these things were worsened by a lack of oxygen, which firefighters, who were 1,100 yards (1,000 meters) from the led to the production of more toxic gases. burning truck, reported zero visibility. They were ordered to take shelter in Shelter 17. Although the shelters can hold Damage and Service Restoration dozens of occupants, the bunkers were designed to resist heat and toxic fumes for only about 2 hours. It took more than 50 hours for the fire to be completely The Italian side initially dispatched eight motorcycle extinguished; it required a spray mist to cool the interior suf- patrols and a multi-use fire vehicle with three extinguishers ficiently for entry to move the concrete, burned installations, staffed by a driver. Italian firefighters were alerted to the fire and truck cargo that blocked access to the center of the tun- at 11:02 a.m. and arrived at 11:10 a.m. The Italian fire detec- nel. The shelters near the incident were also severely dam- tion system lost all transmission data in Lay-By 19, although aged. In addition, nearly 1,100 yards (1 kilometer) of the Italian firefighters arrived at the portal on their side. At Lay- tunnel lost virtually all its ceramic tiles. By 22, they were stopped by heavy smoke. Although they tried As a result of the fire, the tunnel was closed for 3 years while to continue on foot, the extreme heat and low visibility forced numerous safety features were installed. them to retreat. There was local opposition to the tunnel's reopening based Approximately 30 minutes later, a second engine arrived at on claims of danger from truck exhaust fumes and concerns the French portal, but was unable to rescue the first group of that truck traffic polluted the Alpine region. Protesters firefighters because of the smoke condition. The fire engines blocked the first heavy freight truck trying to use the tunnel could not be removed from the tunnel until 3 days later; at that and set fire to its contents when they found a television crew time, one engine was found totally burned and the other badly aboard the largely empty Belgian truck. After three cancelled damaged. About 3 hours into fighting the fire, the French com- openings, the tunnel reopened in stages: to cars in March mander raised the alert to red (the highest level possible) to 2002, to trucks with up to four axles and weighing less than
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31 19 tons in May 2002, and to all trucks in July 2002 (despite a · Adding fire-resistant sheeting to the tunnel's walls. July 26, 2002, environmental protest against reopening the · Installing more traffic lights and flashing warning signs tunnel to heavy goods vehicles). along the tunnel. · Installing new heat sensors at both ends of the tunnel to detect overheated trucks before they enter the tunnel. Conclusions · Adding 120 video cameras to monitor traffic at all times. The inquiry into the 1999 Mont Blanc fire led to a radical · Locating firefighting facilities at each portal and one close reassessment of safety needs, a redesign/rebuilding of the tun- to the tunnel's midpoint. nel, and a restructuring of the tunnel management. Investi- · Restricting truck travel to one direction through the tun- gators determined that communication between the French nel. Trucks traveling in the opposite direction must use the and Italian sides of the tunnel had been very limited and that Frejus Tunnel some 55 miles (90 kilometers) to the south. almost no coordinated efforts had been made in any area. Neither the Italian fire service nor the French fire service had On January 31, 2005, a criminal trial to establish responsi- ever mounted a full exercise inside the tunnel. Two joint safety bility for the fire began in France. Sixteen people and compa- exercises had been held in 25 years, and neither had involved nies were named as defendants in the manslaughter case, live practice inside the tunnel. No joint fire drills had been including the Belgian driver of the truck that caught fire; held in the 10 years prior to the incident. The investigation Volvo, the truck's manufacturer; both the Italian and French also determined that both nations' emergency plans--the companies that managed the tunnel; safety regulators; and French plan from 1994 and the Italian plan from 1995--were the mayor of the town of Chamonix. The French court found inadequate and lacked any redundant or failsafe systems. 12 individuals and four companies guilty of manslaughter. A significant management change resulted from the fire. The head of tunnel security received a 6-month jail term plus Now, one company that includes both French and Italian a 24-month suspended sentence; the president of the French interests manages the entire tunnel, with one active control operating company received a 2-year suspended jail term plus room and one incident commander. The general manager a fine; and the driver of the truck received a 4-month sus- changes every 30 months and alternates between countries. pended jail term. Seven other people, including the tunnel's Full-scale, videotaped safety training exercises are conducted Italian security chief, were handed suspended terms and fines. every 3 months to improve organization and cooperation Three companies were fined up to $180,000 each. The charges among the rescue services, including firefighters, paramedics, against Volvo were dropped. and police from both countries. A typical exercise includes 100 emergency response personnel, 40 vehicles, and 30 peo- References ple with simulated injuries. Participants do not know the specifics of the simulated incident beforehand. Anderson, T., & Paaske, B.J. (2002)."Safety in Railway Tun- Numerous other safety measures emerged from the court nels and Selection of Tunnel Concept." Paper presented at the inquiry that were intended to detect abnormal situations, ESReDA 23rd Seminar, Nov. 1819, Delft University, Nether- provide protection and evacuation routes for tunnel users, lands. Available: www.dnv.com/binaries/SafetyinRailway provide access for rescuers, and assist in the self-protection of Tunnels_tcm4-10754.pdf (Accessed Jan. 6, 2005). tunnel users and firefighters. To achieve these goals, the tun- Bounagui, A., Kashef, A., & Benichou, N. (2003). "Para- nel authorities made numerous improvements: metric Study on the Ventilation Configuration for a Section of a Tunnel in the Event of a Fire." Paper present at the 3rd · Installing lay-bys and turning bays every 1,970 feet (600 NRC Symposium on Computational Fluid Dynamics, High meters) on both sides of the tunnel to allow heavy goods Performance Computing and Virtual Reality, Ottawa, vehicles to stop and to allow maintenance and rescue vehi- Canada, Dec. Available: http://irc.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/pubs/full cles to operate in the tunnel. text/nrcc46740/nrcc46740.pdf (Accessed Nov. 8, 2004). · Situating concrete-lined emergency shelters on one side of Browne, A. (2000, Nov. 12). "Safety Fears as List of Tragic the tunnel at 980-foot (300-meter) intervals to protect Accidents Grows." The Observer. Available: http://observer. occupants from the atmosphere of the tunnel. Each shelter guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4089982-102275,00.html is pressurized and fitted with a fireproof, airlock door. The (Accessed Aug. 27, 2004). shelters are also equipped with telephones, closed-circuit "France: Trial Opens in Deadly Tunnel Fire" (2005, Feb. 1). TV cameras, video links to one of three command posts, The New York Times, p. A6. and public address systems. Haack, A. (2002)."Current Safety Issues in Traffic Tunnels." · Adding 116 smoke extractors, one every 328 feet (100 Tunnelling & Underground Space Technology, Vol. 17, No. 2 meters), and creating 76 new fresh air vents. (Apr.), pp. 117128.