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1984: London tube fire traps hundreds
Almost 1,000 passengers were trapped in smoke-filled tunnels for three hours after a fire at London's busiest underground station, Oxford Circus.

Emergency services arrived at Oxford Circus within minutes of the blaze breaking out. There were no deaths and only minor injuries.

But the damage caused was substantial, and it is expected to be many days before normal service resumes at the station.

The cause of the fire, which started at about 2220 GMT in a tunnel connecting the northbound Bakerloo and Victoria lines, is thought to have been caused by an electrical fault on a train or in tunnel cabling.

Five tube trains - packed with people returning from the West End - were trapped in the fire and had to be driven slowly back to Tottenham Court Road and Green Park stations, where ambulances were waiting.

People started to panic when they realised they could not get out
Police officer Karen Tokins
Fifteen people were taken to the nearby Middlesex Hospital and seven London Transport workers were treated at the scene, but later rejoined the rescue operation.

All were suffering from the effects of the smoke which had filled many miles of the tunnels.

Police officer Karen Tokins was travelling to work when the fire broke out.

"There was thick black smoke pouring down and blocking the escalators - people started to panic when they realised they could not get out," she said.

A fire service spokesman said the blaze had destroyed an empty train, burnt out a crossing point between the Victoria and Bakerloo lines and badly damaged three miles of tunnelling.

"We have been very fortunate to have got away with so few injuries and deaths," he said.

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Passengers are led to safety through tube tunnel
Trains were halted for hours


In Context
An investigation into the fire at Oxford Circus criticised lax fire precautions and warned, "Luck has a habit of running out."

Smoking on underground trains had been banned in July 1984.

After the fire at Oxford Circus station the ban was extended to all subsurface stations but smokers often lit cigarettes on the escalators on their way out.

On 18 November 1987 a devastating fire in King's Cross station booking hall killed 31 people when a burning match fell under a wooden escalator.

The disaster resulted in a major overhaul of design and safety procedures on the London Underground.

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