Tunnel fire victims to be sent home today
The majority of the 65 people hospitalised in the Gudavanga Tunnel fire will be sent home today after undergoing a final health check, Noralv Distad, the crisis leader for the local Aurland Kommune, has told The Local.
"Most of them will leave the hospitals today, but they have to have a total check-up this morning," he said. "No one is burnt. It is all because they have inhaled the smoke. It’s the breathing that’s the problem, the lungs."
The six most seriously wounded victims, who are all patients at Bergen's Haukeland hospital, will remain under care for some further days. Twenty six of the victims were Chinese tourists, aged between nine and 71 years old.
Police received reports of a fire in the eleven kilometre Gudavanga Tunnel, Norway's second longest, at 12.10pm yesterday.
By 1pm, the emergency services, which included six helicopters, hundreds of firemen, and ten police patrols, had evacuated all of the 80 people inside.
The fire has been linked to an explosion in the trailer of a Polish truck, which caused a blaze about three and a half kilometres into the tunnel.
The thick black smoke that billowed out cut visibility to almost nothing along an eight kilometre stretch, causing minor collisions and making breathing difficult.
It emerged this morning that the emergency communications system in the tunnel also failed, forcing police and fire services to use mobile phones and walkie talkies to keep in touch with each other and talk to those trapped in their cars.
Those inside the tunnel were advised to remain sitting in their cars and to cover their noses and mouths with towels. The most seriously injured were those that ignored the warning and left their vehicles, fully exposing their lungs to the caustic smoke.
"It was just luck that nobody died," Arvid Gilje, head of the Aurland fire services, told TV 2. "We could just as easily have had 40 fatalities. It was luck and skill."
"I want to stress the quite unique job all the people from the rescue team did and also the volunteers from the Red Cross," Distad said.