A truck suddenly catches fire in Germany's longest road tunnel. The truck loaded with cars is traveling on Autobahn 71 in the Thuringian Forest. Flames shoot out of the vehicle. But the story ends happily. According to the police, the truck driver can probably prevent something worse from happening. There are no injuries.
As the driver drove through the eternally long tunnel late on Thursday evening, the 41-year-old man noticed that a tire on his trailer loaded with nine vehicles had caught fire. First he stopped in the approximately eight kilometer long tunnel and tried to put out the fire. When he didn't succeed, he had the presence of mind to press the emergency call button in a breakdown bay, the police said the day after.
The fire on the truck continues to spread. According to the police, the driver decides to drive his vehicle out of the tunnel. He has to drive six kilometers to prevent something worse from happening. “At literally the last second, the driver managed to drive out of the tunnel and park the vehicle in the open air,” it said in a statement. The tunnel fire department then immediately extinguished the fire.
The A71 was initially completely closed near the tunnel until Friday morning. Only after clean-up work were all traces released on Friday. The damage is currently estimated at around 250,000 euros. Photos show the cars, some of which were completely burned out, on the truck's trailer.
"It was definitely the driver's right decision to continue driving, otherwise the whole thing would certainly have taken on even greater proportions," says a control center employee. He assumes that the driver organized his own journey after the accident. It is not yet clear how exactly the fire broke out. It is conceivable, for example, that the tire burst and the brakes ran so hot that a fire broke out, as another control center employee explains.
"In such cases, you should try to get out of the tunnel if possible, that's the most important thing. In this case, of course, it was a razor's edge ride, but it still went well," says Cornelius Blanke, press spokesman for the automobile club ADAC Hesse-Thuringia.
Especially in long tunnels like the Rennsteig system, it is important to listen to the traffic announcements before driving and pay attention to the current signage, says Blanke. You should also keep an eye on your car: If the car behaves strangely, you should pull off in front of a tunnel and check the vehicle.
If a breakdown or accident occurs within a tunnel, the hazard warning lights should be switched on and, if possible, one of the breakdown bays should be approached. Emergency call stations can be found at regular intervals in the tunnel. According to Blanke, fire departments regularly practice rescue scenarios in the facilities.
At around eight kilometers long, the Rennsteig Tunnel is considered Germany's longest road tunnel. Around 24,000 vehicles passed through the tunnel within 24 hours, the east branch of the federal Autobahn GmbH announced last summer. The Rennsteig Tunnel was built between 1998 and 2003 for the equivalent of around 200 million euros. It is scheduled to be renovated in the next few years.
How dangerous tunnel fires can be became clear around 2001. At that time, eleven people died in a fire in the Swiss Gotthard Tunnel. Afterwards, there was an intensive debate about the safety of tunnels and improvements to the system technology.