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Encyclopedia > Mont Blanc Tunnel
Sculpture in France at the tunnel's northwestern exit.
Sculpture in France at the tunnel's northwestern exit.

The Mont Blanc Tunnel is a road tunnel in the Alps between France and Italy, under the Mont Blanc mountain. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... A disused railway tunnel now converted to pedestrian and bicycle use, near Houyet, Belgium A tunnel is an underground passage. ... The West face of the Petit Dru above the Chamonix valley near the Mer de Glace. ... This article is about the Alpine mountain. ...


The two most famous cities near the tunnel are Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France and Courmayeur, the Aosta Valley, Italy. Begun in 1957 and completed in 1965, the 11.6 kilometer (7.25 mile) long, 8.6 meter (28.2 ft) wide Mont Blanc Tunnel runs beneath the mountain between these two cities. It is one of the major trans-Alpine transport routes particularly for Italy which relies on the tunnel for transporting as much as one-third of its freight to northern Europe. Panorama of Chamonix valley Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or, more commonly, Chamonix is a town and commune in eastern France, in the Haute-Savoie département, at the foot of Mont Blanc. ... Haute-Savoie is a French département, named after the Alps mountain range. ... Courmayeur is an Italian ski town at the foot of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe. ... The Aosta Valley (in Arpitan: Val dOuta, French: Vallée dAoste, Italian: Valle dAosta) is a mountainous and very silly and smelly region in north-western Italy. ... 1957 (MCMLVII) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1965 (MCMLXV) was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1965 calendar). ...

Contents

The 1999 fire

On March 24, 1999, 39 people died when a Belgian transport truck carrying flour and margarine caught fire in the tunnel. After several miles, the driver realized something was wrong as cars coming in the opposite direction flashed their headlights at him; a glance in his mirrors showed white smoke coming out from under his cab. This was not yet a dire emergency; there had been 16 other truck fires in the tunnel over the previous 35 years, always extinguished on the spot by the drivers. Image File history File links Splitsection. ... March 24 is the 83rd day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (84th in leap years). ... 1999 (MCMXCIX) was a common year starting on Friday, and was designated the International Year of Older Persons by the United Nations. ... Look up flour in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Margarine, as a generic term, can indicate any of a wide range of butter-substitutes. ...


At 10:53 AM CET, the driver of the vehicle, 57-year-old Gilbert Degreaves stopped in the middle of the tunnel to attempt to fight the fire but he was suddenly forced back by flames erupting from his cab.


At 10:55 AM, the tunnel employees triggered the fire alarm and stopped any further traffic from entering. At this point the tunnel was populated by at least 10 cars/vans and 18 trucks that had entered from the French side. A few vehicles from the Italian side passed the Volvo truck without stopping. Some of the cars from the French side managed to turn around in the narrow 2-lane tunnel to retreat back to France, but negotiating the road in the dense smoke that had rapidly filled the tunnel quickly made this impossible. The larger trucks didn't have the space to turn around, and reversing out wasn't an option. AB Volvo (or Aktiebolaget Volvo) is a world-leading Swedish manufacturer of commercial vehicles, trucks, buses and construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications, aerospace components and financial services. ...


Most drivers rolled up their windows and waited for rescue. The ventilation system in the tunnel drove toxic smoke back down the tunnel faster than anyone could run to safety. These fumes quickly filled the tunnel and caused vehicle engines to stall; they needed oxygen to start. Many drivers near the blaze who attempted to leave their cars and seek refuge points were quickly overcome.


Within minutes, two fire trucks from Chamonix responded to the unfolding disaster. The fire melted the wiring and plunged the tunnel into darkness; in the smoke and with abandoned and wrecked vehicles blocking their path, the large fire engines were unable to proceed. The fire crews instead abandoned their vehicles and took refuge in two of the emergency fire cubicles (fire-door sealed small rooms set into the walls every 500 meters or so). As they huddled behind the fire doors, they could hear burning fuel roll down the road surface, causing tires to pop and gas tanks to explode. They were rescued five hours later by a third fire crew that responded and reached them via a ventilation duct; of the 15 firefighters that had been trapped, 14 were in serious condition and one (their commanding officer) died in the hospital. Panorama of Chamonix valley Chamonix-Mont-Blanc or, more commonly, Chamonix is a town and commune in eastern France, in the Haute-Savoie département, at the foot of Mont Blanc. ...


Some victims escaped to the fire cubicles. The original fire doors on the cubicles were rated to survive for two hours. Some had been upgraded in the 34 years since the tunnel was built to survive for four hours. However, the fire burned for 56 hours and reached temperatures of 1,000 °C (1,832°F) mainly because of the margarine load in the trailer, equivalent to a 6,000 gallon (23 000 L) oil tanker, which spread to other cargo vehicles nearby that also carried combustable loads. Slowly, everything became part of the inferno. It trapped around 40 vehicles in dense and poisonous smoke (containing carbon monoxide and cyanide). Due to the gradient of the road, the tunnel acted like a chimney sucking cold air in on one side with the intense heat and smoke leaving on the other. Adding to that effect, and in error, fresh air was pumped in through the Italian side, instead of sucking poisonous black smoke out forcing it to escape through the French side. Only cars on the upper side of the tunnel were trapped, while cars on the other side of the fire were mostly unaffected. 27 people died in their vehicles. 10 died trying to escape on foot. Of the initial 50 people trapped by the fire, only 12 survived. It would be over five days before the tunnel cooled sufficiently for anyone to go back in, to start repairs. Carbon monoxide, with the chemical formula CO, is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. ... The cyanide ion, CN−. From the top: 1. ... A chimney is a system for venting hot gases and smoke from a boiler, stove, furnace or fireplace to the outside atmosphere. ...


Heroism

The 12 survivors all said the same thing: "That guy on the motorcycle saved my life". It was Pierlucio Tinazzi, a security guard employed by the Italian side. His job was to ride up and down the tunnel to see that everything was running smoothly. He was on the French side when emergency services had given up. He used some breathing equipment and rode into the tunnel on his BMW K75. He was in radio contact with the Italian side for over an hour before succumbing to the intense heat. His BMW melted into the pavement after he dragged an unconscious truck driver to behind a fire door. There is a commemorative plaque of him at the Italian entrance.[1] This article or section seems not to be written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia entry. ... Emergency services are services that deal with emergencies and other aspects of Public Safety. ... A self contained breathing apparatus, or SCBA is a device worn by rescue workers, firefighters, and others to provide breathable air in a hostile environment. ... BMW began as an aeroplane engine manufacturer. ...


Aftermath

The tunnel underwent major changes in the three years it remained closed after the fire. Renovations include computerised detection equipment, extra security bays, a parallel escape shaft and a fire station in the middle of the tunnel complete with double cabbed fire trucks. The safety shafts also have clean oxygen flowing through them via air vents. Any people in the security bays now have video contact with the control center, so they can communicate with the people trapped inside and inform them about what's happening in the tunnel more clearly. These changes are sure to prevent another fire like the 1999 fire ever happening again; but if another fire does start, it surely can't be as deadly as it was, plus the new escape shafts will lead any people ever trapped again to safety quickly and easily.

New tunnel exit, France.
New tunnel exit, France.

Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ...

Manslaughter trial

In Grenoble, France, 16 people and companies were tried on January 31, 2005 for manslaughter. Defendants in the trial included: Grenoble (Arpitan: Grasanòbol) is a city and commune in south-east France, situated at the foot of the Alps, at the confluence of the Drac into the Isère River. ... January 31 is the 31st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

  • Gilbert Degreaves, the Belgian driver of the truck that caused the fire
  • Volvo, the truck's manufacturer
  • French and Italian managers of the tunnel
  • ATMB and SITMB
  • Safety regulators
  • Mayor of Chamonix
  • A senior official of the French Ministry of Public Works.

The cause of the fire is disputed. Different accounts report it to be a cigarette stub carelessly thrown at the truck, and it supposedly entered the engine induction snorkel above the cab, setting the paper air filter on fire, a mechanical or electrical fault, or poor maintenance of the truck's engine. The closest smoke detector was out of order and French emergency services do not use the same radio frequency as those inside the tunnel. The Italian company responsible for operating the tunnel, SITMB, paid €13.5 million ($17.5 million US) to a fund for the families of the victims. Édouard Balladur, former president of the French company operating the tunnel (from 1968 to 1980), then later Prime Minister of France, was heard as a witness. He was asked about the security measures that he took or failed to take. Balladur claimed that a lot was prevented by the division of the tunnel into two sections operated by two companies (one in France, the other in Italy) which did not take a concerted approach. On July 27, 2005, thirteen defendants were found guilty, and handed sentences ranging from fines to suspended prison sentences, to 6 months in jail. AB Volvo (or Aktiebolaget Volvo) is a world-leading Swedish manufacturer of commercial vehicles, trucks, buses and construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications, aerospace components and financial services. ... A mayor (from the Latin māior, meaning larger, greater) is the modern title of the highest ranking municipal officer. ... Look up Public works in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Edouard Balladur, French statesman Édouard Balladur (born May 2, 1929) is a French politician. ... The Prime Minister of France (Premier ministre de la France) is the functional head of the Cabinet of France. ... July 27 is the 208th day (209th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, with 157 days remaining. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

  • Gerard Roncoli, the head of security at the tunnel, was given a 6 month jail term plus an additional 24 months suspended sentence, the heaviest sentence levied against any of the defendants.
  • Remy Chardon, former president of the French company operating the tunnel, was given a two-year suspended jail term and a fine of approximately $18,000 US.
  • Gilbert Degreaves, the driver of the truck, was given a four-month suspended sentence.
  • Seven other people, including the tunnel's Italian security chief, were handed suspended terms and fines. Three companies were fined up to $180,000 US each.

The charges against Volvo were dropped.


Sources

  1. ^ Bike, April 2006, EMAP Publishing

External links

  • BBC
  • Structurae Mont-Blanc Tunnel
  • Funivie Official Site
  • Chamonix-Mont-Blanc Map

  Results from FactBites:
 
Mont Blanc Tunnel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (698 words)
Sculpture in France at the tunnel's northwestern exit.
The Mont Blanc Tunnel is a road tunnel in the Alps between France and Italy, near the Mont Blanc mountain.
Due to the gradient of the road, the tunnel acted like a chimney sucking cold air in on one side with the intense heat and smoke leaving on the other.
Mont Blanc - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (616 words)
Mont Blanc and Dome du Gouter in 2004
Mont Blanc was first climbed on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard; the first woman to reach the summit was Marie Paradis in 1808.
Mont Blanc has traditionally been considered to be 4807 m high, but GPS-based measurements made in 2001 and 2003 by the Institut géographique national and other experts show differences of a few metres from year to year.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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