Mont Blanc Tunnel

From Academic Kids

Missing image
Mont_Blanc_tunnel_sculpture.jpg
Sculpture in France at the tunnel's exit.

The Mont Blanc Tunnel is a road tunnel in the Alps between France and Italy, near the Mont Blanc mountain.

The two most famous cities near the tunnel are Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France and Courmayeur, Valle d'Aosta, Italy. Begun in 1957 and completed in 1965, the 11.6 kilometer (7.25 mile) long, 8.6 meter 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 who rely on the tunnel for shipping as much as one-third of their freight to northern Europe.

The 1999 fire

On March 24, 1999, within 14 minutes, 39 people died when a Belgian transport truck carrying flour and margarine caught fire in the 8.6 meter wide tunnel at 10:53 a.m. CET. The fire burned for two days and reached temperatures of 1,000° Celsius. 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. Only cars on the upper side of the tunnel were trapped, while cars on the other side of fire were mostly unaffected. As a result of the fire, the tunnel was closed for three years while numerous safety features were installed. Of the 39 dead, 38 died trapped inside their vehicles, 1 firefighter died of his injuries in hospital after the disaster.

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.

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Mont_Blanc_tunnel_exit.jpg
New tunnel exit, France.

Manslaughter trial

In Grenoble, France, 16 people and companies were tried on January 31, 2005 for effective manslaughter for the fire.

Defendants in the trial included:

The cause of the fire is in dispute. Different accounts report it to be a cigarette stub, a mechanical 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 euros ($17.5 million) to an account for 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.

External links

de:Mont-Blanc-Tunnel fr:Tunnel du Mont-Blanc

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