Train that burned wasn’t up to code

Deputy fire inspector: Carriages from before ’06 must be made safe.

December 30, 2010 02:56
2 minute read.
Israeli passenger train fire

Israel train fire 311. (photo credit: Reuters)


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The Israel Railways train involved in a fire on Tuesday that burned through three carriages and left dozens of passengers injured by smoke inhalation did not at all measure up to safety standards put into place in Israel in 2006, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Chaim Tamam, deputy chief inspector of the Fire and Rescue Services, told the Post on Wednesday that a number of regulations called for under Fire Safety Code 5435 were not adhered to in the train, putting the lives of the passengers in danger.

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“Code 5435 deals with all the safety aspects of a train in case of fire, including how the exits, engines and stations should operate. For instance, under this code, trains must be sealed so that smoke can’t go from one carriage to another.

“In case of fire, passengers must be able to open the doors to exit [the train] and the emergency lights must come on so people can see.

None of these worked [in Tuesday’s fire].

“What we can say is that this train does not meet the requirements of Code 5435.”

Tamam said the code also deals with the materials used for the interior of railway carriages, which must be nonflammable.

“We can’t have a situation of train carriages burning like torches, where a small mishap like someone dropping a cigarette could cause a train to burst into flames,” he said.

Tamam said that the fire, which did not cause any deaths, shows that trains dating from before 2006 or others in which the requirements of Code 5435 were never implemented must immediately be brought up to the required standard out of “a responsibility to their passengers.”

On Tuesday, Israel Railways CEO Yitzhak Harel said it was too early to say why the emergency systems didn’t open the carriages’ doors.

“There is a system that is supposed to open the doors automatically in case of a fire, and we do not know why it malfunctioned,” he said. All the doors could be opened by an emergency handle, Harel stressed, but the passengers, in their rush and panic, did not manage to open them.

Tuesday’s fire broke out on a train traveling south from Nahariya. The driver did not know there was a fire on board and the train continued on its way until a security guard activated the emergency brakes and the train came to a stop near Yakum, 10 kilometers south of Netanya.

Yitzhak Shilan, Netanya fire chief and a member of the investigation committee probing the cause of the blaze, said the committee had yet to definitively determine what caused the fire.

“One of the first conclusions we came to is that some diesel fuel dripped out of an engine and caught fire, though we still aren’t completely sure what caused the fire,” Shilan said on Wednesday morning.

That conclusion is supported by investigative teams’ discovery of traces of diesel fuel along 2 kilometers of train track – fuel that could very well have been ignited by sparks generated by the train’s wheels.

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