It is now known that twelve passengers in the train managed to escape.
The train which was taking skiers to ski slopes on Kitzsteinhorn mountain, near Salzburg caught fire as it passed through the tunnel. The incident occurred at about 08:30 (local time) when the train was about 600 metres inside the tunnel.
It is not yet known what caused the fire to start. Some reports suggest that the glow from a fire could be seen inside the tunnel before the train entered it.
The tunnel acted like a giant chimney. Fresh air was drawn in through the lower portal which fanned the flames and caused smoke to be drawn up to the top station. It is thought that a number of people attempted to escape from the front of the train and climbing upwards. They would have quickly been overcome by the poisonous smoke. At the top station, 3 people died from smoke inhalation.
The driver of the train reported the fire and brought the train to a halt which also stopped the descending, counterbalancing train. He was able to communicate with the control centre for some 10 minutes before contact were suddenly lost.
The twelve people who survived escaped from the blazing train by smashing windows and walking to safety through the tunnel. They reported that the doors were locked. However, a spokesperson said that the driver was told to release the doors.
Efforts to recover bodies were suspended earlier today because of fears that the wreckage was unstable. But work has now been resumed.
No fire-fighting equipment was carried on the train. The funicular railway was first opened in 1974 to become the first alpine underground railway. It was extensively modernised in 1994. The funicular cars can carry 180 people.
BBC Online: Austria mourns tunnel blaze victims
Photographs of the Gletscherbahn Kaprun, Austria
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COMMENT: Push - Pull - the Hidden Dangers
by R H State
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