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French investigators probe Channel Tunnel blaze

French investigators probe Channel Tunnel blaze

THE FIRE safety arrangements in the undersea Channel Tunnel, which links England and France, have come under the spotlight following a 16-hour blaze on a freight train.

Fire and rescue services were alerted to the incident at 3pm on 11 September when a train carrying heavy goods vehicles caught fire as it passed through the 31-mile north tunnel.

The train had set off from Folkestone in Kent and was about seven miles from Calais when the fire occurred. According to reports, 32 people evacuated into a service tunnel, where a safety train ferried them to France. Fourteen suffered minor injuries.

As Fire Risk Management went to press, the cause of the blaze had not been identified but French authorities, who are leading the investigation, stated that a lorry carrying the chemical phenol – a toxic product used by the pharmaceutical industry – was close to the seat of the fire. They also said there was no evidence of criminal intent or terrorism. In addition, passengers aboard the train commented that they heard a series of explosions prior to the fire and evacuation.

Some 300 French and British firefighters worked in difficult and tiring conditions, extinguishing the main seat of the fire by 7am the next morning. The operation was subsequently scaled down as crews tackled small pockets of fire.

The incident also caused major disruption to road and rail networks, with Channel Tunnel services temporarily suspended.

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