Beijing railway track in flames after illegal warehouse underneath burns down

Two-hour shutdown from fire prompts concerns there may be other illegal structures along the network

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 6:41pm

Fire struck a section of the Beijing subway last night, causing a two-hour shutdown on the busy line, after an illegal warehouse directly under the railway bridge became engulfed in flames – triggering safety concerns about other illegal structures.

There were huge pillars of smoke as the fire spread to the railway above, burning up the noise barrier and roof of the section of track on Line 13, according to The Beijing News.

The blaze occurred between Xizhimen and Dazhongsi stations. The line serves the northern parts of the capital.

No trains passed while the section of railway was on fire and no one was hurt in the incident, the metro authority said. Operations there were suspended for more than two hours.

Reports say the warehouse was illegally built under the bridge, which is off-limits to buildings and houses, causing safety concerns about other structures throughout the rail network – one of the busiest in the world.

Beijing’s railway saw 6.6 million passengers yesterday alone, according to the Beijing metro authority.

“The overall safety of the Beijing subway is quite good. I have conducted research with the Beijing subway [authority]. They really put a lot of emphasis on safety,” said Tan Nanlin, a professor on railway safety from Beijing Jiaotong University.

"But they couldn’t do anything when fire occurred outside [the railway]," Tan said.

The cause of the blaze at the 30-square-metre warehouse - which stored milk, according to The Beijing News - is still being investigated, the Beijing Fire Department said on its Weibo account.

The burned storehouse was located 300 metres away from another line of warehouses, according to the newspaper.

An incident of this scale has been rare on the Beijing Subway. The last serious accident on the rapid-transit network was in 2011, when one person died and 28 were injured after an ascending escalator began to run downwards on Line 4.