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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 11:40 GMT 12:40 UK
Tunnel worker 'faces death blaze inquiry'
Mont Blanc tunnel fire
Thirty-nine people died in the Mont Blanc tunnel fire
A Mont Blanc tunnel operator on duty on the day of the devastating fire two years ago has reportedly been placed under investigation by French authorities, say reports in France.

The Dauphine Libere newspaper reported that the Italian technician was being investigated on charges on manslaughter for failing to follow the correct safety procedures following the outbreak of the blaze.

It is alleged the operator, named as Marcello Meyseillier, may have fanned the flames of the fire by switching on a ventilation system.

Thirty-nine people died in the inferno in March 1999, when their vehicles were trapped in the 12km (7.5 miles) tunnel.

Response criticised

Mr Meyseillier is reported to have told investigators that experience had taught him the best way to clear smoke from the Italian side of the tunnel was to pump fresh air through one shaft of the ventilation system.

fire
The tunnel is being repaired for reopening in September
But his actions have been blamed for fuelling the flames.

A report into the accident has criticised both French and Italian authorities for their reaction to the blaze. Mr Meyseillier is the sixth person to be placed under investigation over the tragedy.

Operators turned on lights to stop traffic entering the tunnel as soon as the fire broke out, but it was nine minutes before they warned traffic already inside the tunnel to stop driving towards the truck which had caught fire.

Thirty-three vehicles were incinerated in the fire, which took two days to extinguish.

The tunnel is still undergoing repairs and is expected to reopen by September.

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