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Monday, 28 May, 2001, 15:18 GMT 16:18 UK
Lorry fire closes Alpine tunnel
The Mont Blanc tunnel fire between Courmayeur and Chamonix in March 1999
The Mont Blanc fire highlighted tunnel safety problems
Police in Italy say 14 people have been treated for smoke inhalation after a lorry caught fire in a tunnel near the country's Alpine border with France.

The blaze broke out inside the Prapuntin tunnel on the Turin-Bardonecchia motorway shortly after 1000 local time (0800GMT).


The cause of the accident was not known, but highway police official Enrico Carnino said mechanical failure was being investigated.

Mr Carnino said about 30 people were inside the tunnel when it caught fire. None of those treated were in serious condition.

The tunnel was immediately closed in both directions.

Bardonecchia is on the road leading to the Frejus tunnel, the main artery linking Italy and France.

Heavy traffic

On Friday French officials said a collision between a heavy truck and two cars closed down the Frejus tunnel. There were no reports of casualties.

The road has been subjected to particularly heavy freight traffic since March 1999 when the Mont Blanc tunnel - which also links France and Italy further north - was closed due to a fire which killed 39 people.

That blaze started when a truck carrying flour and margarine caught fire, sending temperatures soaring to over 1,000 degrees C.

The Mont Blanc tunnel is due to reopen later this year.

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