Channel Tunnel Fire


Various types of automobiles are moved through the Channel Tunnel on open-sided rail carriages (or rakes), a cheaper alternative than closed carriages. Open carriages would tend to fan any flames rather than contain it when the train is moving.

On November 18th, 1996 a fire started under a lorry before the train started moving, but the driver was unaware of the situation. The normal procedure in the case of a small fire was to accelerate the train out of the tunnel where it could be dealt with. However, on this day, the fire developed quickly enough that the train was brought to a halt inside the tunnel so that passengers and crew could be evacuated into the central service tunnel between the main tunnels.

34 passengers and crew were trapped for half an hour in the lounge carriage, 150 feet under the channel and 12 miles from shore. The fire burnt for six hours before 450 French and British firemen brought it under control. By the time the fire was extinguished, part of train had been welded to the track, and the tunnel itself had suffered damage.

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