MONT BLANC FIRE RAISES DESIGN QUESTIONS

This short feature discusses various aspects and implications of the fire in the Mont Blanc road tunnel on 24 March 1999, which killed 41 people. According to the preliminary report on the disaster, a decision to reverse smoke extractors inside the tunnel contributed to the intensity of the blaze. Fresh air, sucked through the ventilation system at one end, fanned the flames and spread the fire, which began near the middle of the 11.6km-long tunnel in a lorry carrying margarine and flour. The blaze reached temperatures up to 1000C, took 50 hours to control, and destroyed 33 vehicles. The tunnel is likely to remain closed for several months, while investigations and repairs are conducted. The interim report emphasises lack of coordination between the operators at both ends of the tunnel, and weaknesses in the design of airtight shelters in the tunnel; it says that personality clashes and commercial considerations undermined efforts to organise regular fire drills. The tunnel operators may consider it too expensive to construct a service tunnel, to prevent a repeat catastrophe; the alternative of installing remote-controlled fire-dousing systems has its problems. The feature also discusses a series of cultural and technical factors which combined to cause the disaster, and briefly examines the safety of fire shelters.

  • Corporate Authors:

    EMAP CONSTRUCT LIMITED

    151 ROSEBERY AVENUE
    LONDON,   United Kingdom  EC1R 4QX
  • Publication Date: 1999-5

Language

  • English

Media Info

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00767078
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Transport Research Laboratory
  • Files: ITRD
  • Created Date: Aug 6 1999 12:00AM