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Authorities explore how to handle subway emergencies

Zhou Wenting
Updated: Jul 14,2016 8:52 AM     China Daily

China’s firefighting authority and subway operators are mulling rescue plans to handle fires in the underground transportation system, a fire control official said during a regional workshop on emergencies in urban environments on July 13.

Detailed plans will be developed, including assessing risks in stations posed by different types of fires, with a focus on stations that have high passenger flow, according to Yang Guohong, director of operational training in the Ministry of Public Security’s fire department, at the workshop.

The workshop was designed to strengthen cooperation and communication between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and was organized by the ASEAN Regional Forum.

“We have to be ready always for rescue work in such confined underground spaces, where more challenges exist,” Yang said.

The daily passenger flow on subways in Shanghai averaged 8.39 million in 2015, following consecutive increases from 2008, which saw 3.06 million passengers per day, according to Shanghai Shentong Metro Group Co, the city’s subway operator.

Subway stations with complicated structures, including long tunnels, platforms, tracks, wires and switching rooms, raise difficulties for rescuers, Yang said, noting that the inadequacy of smoke discharge equipment, low visibility, high temperatures and poor communication are some of the difficulties.

Firefighters are trained regularly in simulated disasters featuring high temperatures and thick smoke concentrations while wearing heavy uniforms and carrying respirators and other equipment to ensure that they are physically capable of walking the long distance in tunnels to reach victims.

“They should notify police right away, which will initiate a collaborative emergency response from various government departments, such as traffic police, health and electrical repair. They should also immediately switch on smoke-discharge facilities, water sprayers and fire protection, and organize an evacuation,” he said.

Rescues involving motor vehicles accidents in tunnels are especially difficult-another key subject being discussed by experts.

In Shanghai, there are currently 46 kilometers of tunnels, and another 10 tunnels will be built.

“Meanwhile, the number of vehicles in the city keeps rising. So we strive to elevate our response capabilities for such accidents and hold drills regularly to ensure efficient accident cleanup and maximally protect people’s safety,” said Chen Yongsheng, director of the headquarters of the Shanghai Fire Control Department.

Altogether, 104 fire-related incidents took place in tunnels in Shanghai since 2006, killing two people and injuring 10.