News & Current Affairs

September 12, 2008

Disruption continuing over tunnel

Disruption continuing over tunnel

Misery is set to continue for thousands of Eurostar passengers with services unlikely to resume on Friday.

The Channel Tunnel is closed after a fire broke out on a freight train about seven miles from Calais. Fire fighters are still tackling the blaze.

Thirty-two people on board were led to safety. Fourteen had suffered minor injuries, including smoke inhalation.

The operator said in a statement it “did not expect” to operate any services on Friday.

The fire broke out on a UK-bound lorry aboard the shuttle train at about 1400 GMT on Thursday, around 11km (7 miles) from the French entrance, the operator Eurotunnel said.

Map

The French Interior Ministry said the lorry, which is understood to have overturned on the train, was carrying the chemical phenol, a toxic product used by the pharmaceutical industry.

At 11.40pm on Thursday fire crews were still working to put out the fire, but the situation was said to be under control.

Chief Fire Officer Bill Feeley of Kent Fire and Rescue Service said about 100 of his firefighters were tackling the blaze.

“The fire itself, because it’s in a tunnel, it’s in a confined space, produces a lot of smoke and a lot of heat for our firefighters to contend with.

“We’re working from one end as the French fire service works from the other, and I know they’ve been in audible contact, so that’s how close they are.”

A train was sent to collect the people from the service tunnel and take them back to France.

The Foreign Office said seven of those evacuated from the tunnel were British.

The French state train company SNCF said its services would not resume until Friday.

The tunnel carries Eurostar express trains between London, Paris and Brussels, as well as freight and passenger shuttles between Folkestone and Calais.

Travel chaos

Traffic built up at the British end of the tunnel, with queues of lorries and cars tailing from the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Kent police have closed junctions eight to nine of the coastbound section of the M20 and sections of the motorway have been used to queue lorries as part of Operation Stack.

The Highways Agency has told motorists to expect delays of up to an hour on the M20.

Motorists at the Channel Tunnel entrance were being given vouchers by staff to board ferries at Dover.

Some of the stranded passengers said Eurostar has agreed to reimburse them for their stays overnight in London.

A spokesman said anyone who had been unable to use the tickets because of the fire would be given as much help as possible with continuing their journey.

Eurolines, which is part of National Express, said it had capacity to take Eurostar passengers to Paris and Brussels by coach, via cross-Channel ferry services.

The Channel Tunnel has suffered several incidents since it opened to traffic in 1994 although only one – a fire in 1996 – caused serious injuries.

In August 2006, 34 people had to be led to safety after a fire broke out on a lorry being carried on a freight train.

The fire caused £200m worth of damage burned for over five hours, wrecking the concrete lining and facilities over about half a mile of tunnel.

Security exercises are staged in the Channel Tunnel by police, fire and ambulance services from both England and France to ensure preparedness for such incidents.

Graphic

Have you been affected by this incident? Were you due to travel through the Channel Tunnel today? Send us your comments and experiences

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August 19, 2008

One dead, many hurt in bus crash

One dead, many hurt in bus crash

 Crashed coach [BBC exclusive pic from Karen Taylor]

The passengers were foreign workers [BBC exclusive pic from Karen Taylor]

One man died and 70 others were injured when a coach carrying migrant workers rolled down an embankment and overturned in Staffordshire.

The vehicle collided with a car, crashed through a wall and ended up in a garden in Alton, near Alton Towers theme park, just before 1800 BST.

Those aboard were from Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and South Africa.

Two people were flown to hospital and 29 others taken to hospital by road, ambulance officials said.

The man who died was 26 years old and from Poland, police said.

The passengers were reported to be living in the Peterborough area and to have been on a trip to Alton Towers.

Murray MacGregor, of West Midlands Ambulance Service, said the coach driver, a man from Lincolnshire, was also seriously injured.

Ch Insp John Maddox, from Staffordshire Police, said officers were trying to establish what caused the crash.

“The bus was coming down a steep hill towards the bridge at the bottom, and from what I can see at the scene, that bus has not managed to go round the bend, and has careered through a wall and down a drop into a garden,” he said.

All people on the coach have been accounted for, he added.

The ambulance service said 44 walking wounded had been taken to Alton Towers for medical treatment.

Two air ambulances, 10 land ambulances, five rapid response vehicles and five fire engines were sent to the scene.

Ian Sloss, a spokesman for the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said the scene was very difficult.

“There’s a bus in a difficult situation which crews have had to secure and obviously the crews are working very hard in difficult circumstances,” he said.

Two of the seriously injured were flown from the scene, one to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham and one to University Hospital North Staffordshire.

Terri Peachey, whose garden the coach crashed into, said she heard a sound “like thunder” when the accident happened and found injured people “bleeding”, screaming and “laying on the floor crying” in her garden.

Proposals have been made for alternative routes, but nothing’s ever been built
David Hughes

“It all happened so quickly,” she said, adding that the coach landed meters from her house.

Bradley Ford, who lives at the nearby Alton Bridge Hotel, told he had helped with casualties.

He said: “I heard this massive crash, rumble, of either crunching metal or what sounded to me initially as a thunderstorm as it was heavily raining before.

Walking wounded

“Then after that we heard shouts and screams so we obviously put it down to a crash.

“When I got to the scene there was a bus overturned, it looked like it had ploughed into a car and then down a neighbor’s driveway into the garden.

“It must have dropped about 20ft (6m). It was on a slope, it’s diagonal, not head-first.”

He added: “There were people climbing out of the fire exits on the bus. There were many walking wounded, all being seen to by the ambulance staff.”

Emergency services near the scene [James Hughes]

It is believed the bus was carrying foreign workers

The collision happened on Station Road, between Alton and the theme park, which is about one mile away.

Margaret Grice, who lives near the scene, said some of the injured banged on her front door.

She said: “I went to the front door and there was… there was about 12 to 15 people, all crying hysterically, blood running down their faces and their arms and… they couldn’t speak English but they were able to say “accident, accident” so at that point I then rang 999.”

Martin Bredda, who lives close to the scene of the crash, described the road as “an accident waiting to happen”.

“It’s a narrow country road. It’s mayhem, absolute mayhem. We had a torrential downpour of rain just before it happened.

“I was in the local pub when someone came in screaming for blankets and sheets.

“We all went to help but the area had been cordoned off by police.”

The staff canteen at the theme park has been set aside to provide shelter and refreshments.

The park sent a minibus to the scene to collect anyone who had been released by the ambulance crews, a spokeswoman said.

The bus was not connected to Alton Towers, she added.


Did you witness the crash? Send us your eye witness accounts

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