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Chunnel fire – trains restart

The Chunnel is shorthand for the Channel tunnel – the 3 tunnels under the English channel that connect the land masses of England and France, and effectively broke the separation of England from the European mainland. When these tunnels were made, they were an engineering marvel (still are), going for 3 tunnels that go for 39 kms under the water. 2 of these tunnels are for to-and-fro train traffic, and an in-between 3rd tunnel is for maintenance and an emergency exit. This 3rd tunnel fulfilled its purposes yet again when a train carrying a lorry with some sort of chemicals ignited, and caused a major fire in the tunnels on the 11th of September, 7 km from Calais. This is the worst nightmare of a claustrophobe, caught in a tunnel with a raging fire that uses the tunnel structure to become an inferno.
A fire in such a location can be very damaging for the tunnel infrastructure, and a similar fire some years back had caused $200 million worth of damage that had to be repaired. In this case, along with repair effort, there are other economic losses – with normal passenger traffic (in the thousands per day) having to be much more reduced (due to having to use only one tunnel), and a huge backlog of lorries waiting to be transported across to France:

The Channel Tunnel has reopened to trains after Thursday’s fire, with some lorry shuttles and a reduced Eurostar passenger service operating. Trains are running in one of two tunnels that normally carry traffic. The other remains closed while the French authorities investigate. Car shuttle services have not resumed, with Eurotunnel giving priority to lorry shuttles and Eurostar.
The tunnel was closed after fire broke out on a freight train about seven miles from Calais on Thursday. The 16-hour blaze was put out on Friday morning. Thirty-two people on board were led to safety when the fire broke out. Fourteen had suffered minor injuries, including smoke inhalation. Some of the lorry drivers involved in the incident have told how they escaped from an amenity car close to the fire.

Modern technology comes with its own problems, and in this case, it was lucky that the passengers did not suffer more serious damage. A fire in a tunnel has the potential to be coming very huge.

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