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Accidents on underground railways are amongst the most difficult situations for emergency services

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Moorgate 28 Feb 75
Moorgate, London 28/02/75
by Christian Angus

Accidents on underground railways are amongst the most feared by rescue services. The confined space, the heat, poor ventilation and the possibility of fire and choking fumes contribute to make them amongst the most difficult to work with.

These factors are also elements in the often high casualty rates in such disasters.

Safety systems have a high priority on modern underground railways. They incorporate a degree of automation which is not usually seen on surface railways. Although this helps to mitigate against human error, still accidents occur - often from the most bizzarre of circumstances . . .

Some notable underground railway disasters

  • 1999, 29 May - Minsk, Belaruse
    Fifty-two people died when a large crowd of people rushed into the Nyamiha underground station in the capital of Belarus. They were leaving a rock concert at a nearby sports stadium and rushed into the station's access tunnel to escape a sudden hail storm.
    See also Belarus: Death toll 54 in Minsk underground station crush :Monday, May 31, 1999
  • 1987, 18 Nov - Kings Cross London
    Although no train was involved, 31 passengers died when a small fire beneath an escalator suddenly erupted causing a fireball which swept throught the underground station.
  • 1975, 28 Feb - Moorgate, London
    An underground train inexplicably failed to stop at Moorgate station, continuing instead at speed into a blind tunnel. Forty-two passengers and the driver killed, and more than seventy badly injured, of whom some subsequently died.

    See also "NIGHTMARE ON PLATFORM NINE" by Christian Angus
  • 1918, 1 Nov - New York City Subway
    During a strike by BRT workers a dispatcher, filling in for striking motormen, lost control of his train at Malbone Street. Ninety-seven people were killed and 200 injured. The accident occurred at Malbone Street and is the worst accident in New York City Subway history.
  • 1903, 10 August - Paris Metro
    Electrical arcing in a power controller caused a fire in the driver's cab of a newly developed multiple unit train on Line 2 of the Paris Metro. The train was evacuated but the fire quickly spread as the train was being propelled forward to the end of the line. Smoke and fumes billowed along the tunnel causing panic amongst passengers. Over 80 people died in the ensuing stampede to exit the station.

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This file last updated: Friday, 27-Aug-1999 06:42:39 EDT
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