Chunnel fire strands thousands

Truck driver arriving in a rescue shuttle at the French fire station

A major fire aboard a freight train damaged the undersea Channel Tunnel on Thursday, halting all rail traffic, including passenger services, between Britain and continental Europe, the tunnel operator said. Eurotunnel, the company which manages the tunnel, said there would be no freight or passenger travel on Friday and a spokesman said he could not say when services would resume.

The blaze turned one of the two main tunnel shafts into a smoking inferno. No one was killed, but six people fell ill after inhaling fumes and needed hospital treatment in Calais.

The French interior minister said emergency services had contained the fire some four hours after it was first detected and were starting to assess the situation.

It is probable that there is considerable damage because the firemen told me that the blaze got as hot as 1,000 degrees (Celsius),” Interior Minister Michelle Alliot-Marie said.

She said it might take “several weeks” to make the necessary repairs to the tunnel normally dedicated to freight transport, but a separate, parallel tunnel reserved for passenger trains was not touched by the flames, but Eurostar, which runs the passenger trains between London and the continent, was forced to shut down its service when the blaze took hold.

About 40,000 people a day travel through the Chunnel. Early start to the weekend, I guess.

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