Rush-hour fire closes both sides of tunnel

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 June, 2006, 12:00am

Traffic became gridlocked on both sides of the Cross-Harbour Tunnel during rush hour last night after a motorcycle erupted in flames inside the tunnel and forced its closure for about an hour.

Both tubes of the tunnel were closed because of the fire, which occurred at about 6.30pm in the Kowloon-bound tube.

Hundreds of frustrated drivers and commuters abandoned their vehicles and walked out of the jammed tunnel. The fire, described by an anonymous witness as fierce, did not spread to other vehicles.

'We didn't know what happened apart from knowing we're stuck on our bus,' said a witness who identified herself as Miss Chan. 'The situation outside [my bus] appeared chaotic, as nobody knew what had happened. Many people chose to get out of their vehicles, but they appeared to have no idea about where to go next.'

An elderly woman who had been travelling by bus twisted her ankle while leaving the tunnel and was sent to Ruttonjee Hospital. A tunnel employee was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

Firemen doused the blaze quickly but smoke still filled the tunnel afterwards. The wreckage of the motorcycle was removed and firefighters and tunnel officials examined the extent of the damage to the tunnel.

The tunnel operator decided to reopen the Hong Kong-bound tube at about 7pm, with traffic running in both directions. The second tube reopened at about 7.30pm.

Congestion remained heavy on roads around the tunnel for some time, however, with the Transport Department urging motorists to use the eastern and western crossings.

Diversions were made on major roads leading to the tunnel to direct traffic away from the scene.