Text and Photos Michel Azéma

Kaprun Tragedy (Austria)

The events  
Index
Kaprun
The events
The carriage
The news
Description
Funiculars in tunnel
November 11th, 2000 9:00 am

A fire in the long tunnel of the funicular "Gletscherbahn Kaprun 2'

155 victims!
 

Reconstruction of the events
by Elmar Berktold
Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria
November 13th, 2000

Thank also to Martin Schönherr, Innsbruck.
"After 9.00 a.m. the cabins of the funicular start in the stations. When the cabin that goes up enters the tunnel (after 600 m of crossing a bridge) passengers in the lowest compartment see a small fire coming out of the instrument panel / dashboard of the empty lower drivers compartment. They try to make a call with a mobile telephone, but don't get a connection in the tunnel.
After a few 100 meters the train stops (automatic emergency stop?), but the doors do not open. The driver at the upper end of the cabin calls the station that there is fire in the car.
The people become dizzy because of the poisonous smoke that spreads in the passenger compartments. The people in the lowest compartment try to destroy the plexy glass of a window with ski poles and ski boots. They are able to make a small hole, twelve persons creep out and let them fall down on the floor of the tunnel. The whole drivers compartment is burning already.
Because of the "chimney-effect" in the tunnel the smoke is blown upwards. The two persons in the cabin that comes down die in or outside the cabin because of the smoke. Even in the upper station, that is integrated in the big "Alpine Center", three persons die in the smoke. It looks as if the building would burn.
In the lower car one of the 12 persons that could flee tells the others, that they have to go down, otherwise the would get into the smoke. So they go down the stairs through the dark tunnel. They fear that the burning car comes down and kills them, but they reach the end of the tunnel and wait for a rescue team in the wood. When they go down the tunnel, they hear several explosions.
Noone knows, if the doors are opened later or the windows are broken also in other compartments by passengers. Ten minutes after the emergency stop there is no more contact with the driver of the car. The fire has become bigger very fast, so the passengers flee up the stairs. About 60 persons (?) die in the smoke outside the cabin, the rest inside. After a short time there are about 900 helpers and 11 helicopters at the lower station. It is too dangerous to go up to the car, so the rescue teams enter the tunnel from the middle station with heavy breathing apparatus. But they see that no help is possible. They cannot reach or even extinguish the fire.
In an interview a specialist of a fire brigade said, that a fire in a tunnel is extremely dangerous, because the heat cannot be abducted in a narrow tunnel - and this tunnel is much narrower than the Mont Blanc Tunnel or the Tauerntunnel. So every fire becomes much hotter as outside a tunnel.
Then there is always a wind in a tunnel ("chimney-effect"), so a fire gets enough oxygen to become bigger in a short while. The cabin is said to be made of materials that should not burn well. But in the extreme heat of a fire in a tunnel even those materials burn like a torch."

Province of Salzburg



 


 


Interview

Listen an extract of the Interview
of Michel Azéma on BBC News
Sunday 12th November 2000
BBC News or BBC News  or BBC News Audio
       
 
Get free Acrobat Reader  RealPlayer
 
Index
Kaprun
The events
The carriage
The news
Description
Funiculars in tunnel
 
Copyright © 1996-2015 Funimag
Michel Azéma, Paris (France)
contact
       
Warning: All images on this magazine are copyrighted and are intended for personal use only. They may not be reproduced in any form without the explicit permission of the copyright owner.