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Saturday, 11 November, 2000, 13:33 GMT
Austria blaze fans tunnel safety fears
Gutted wreckage of vehicles inside Mont Blanc tunnel
Trapped under Mont Blanc in temperatures of 1000C
The fatal train blaze in Austria is the latest disaster to befall road and rail tunnel users in the Alps in recent years.

In 1999, a huge inferno in the Mont Blanc road tunnel between France and Italy killed 39 people.

It took rescue services three days to extinguish the blaze, which was started when a lorry carrying margarine and flour caught fire.

Tauern tunnel post-blaze
The aftermath of the Tauern fire
About 40 vehicles were trapped in dense and poisonous smoke as temperatures reached 1000C.

Two months later a blaze in the Tauern motorway tunnel under the Alps in central Austria killed 12 people and left 50 injured.

Like the Mont Blanc tunnel, the Tauern lacks an escape tunnel parallel to the road system - a design flaw criticised in the initial investigation into the Mont Blanc blaze.

Tunnel review

The fires sparked a major review of tunnel safety around Europe.

Inspectors visited 25 of the continent's biggest tunnels, and found that nearly a third had poor safety features.

Alpine trains have also had their share of disaster.

In June this year, more than 60 people were injured when two mountain trains collided near Germany's highest peak, the Zugspitze.

The trains, which were on a special track adapted for steep inclines, collided head-on in a tunnel between the Bavarian towns of Garmisch and Greinau.

In 1972, 13 people died when a cable snapped on an elevated railway in the Swiss province of Vallais, sending carriages hurtling back to the valley station.

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See also:

26 Apr 00 | UK
Tyne tunnel safety slated
30 May 99 | Europe
Tunnel fire doused
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