of the events
by Elmar Berktold
Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria
November 13th, 2000
Thank also to Martin Schönherr, Innsbruck.
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.
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
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
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."