155 Feared Dead In Austrian Tunnel Fire

November 13, 2000

Local authorities believe at least 155 people, mostly young skiers, perished in a disastrous fire on Saturday in an Alpine tunnel in the Austrian Ski resort of Kaprun, near Salzburg. Flames from an unknown cause broke out when the train was about a third of the way into the 3200 meter (approx. 2 mile) long tunnel.

The fire was still burning Monday morning, making it extremely difficult for rescue workers to begin the task of trying to recover the bodies of the victims. Only 12 people managed to escape the inferno by breaking windows and running back down the track.

Investigators are at a loss to explain the cause of the fire, which may have already started before the single car train entered the tunnel, as it is pulled by a cable, and had no engine on board.

In operation since 1974, the design is similar to many such train tunnels in the Alps, used to provide access to ski areas. The accident reopens the controversy over the apparent lack of safety precautions in older tunnels, which arose last year following disastrous fires in the Mont Blanc tunnel between France and Italy in which 39 people perished, and another fire in an Austrian tunnel two months later which killed 12.

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