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After 30 hours, Suhua Highway tunnel fire still smoldering: Firefighters

05/15/2024 05:49 PM
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Photo courtesy of Hualien County Fire Department May 15, 2024
Photo courtesy of Hualien County Fire Department May 15, 2024

Taipei, May 15 (CNA) A fire above an open-cut tunnel along the Suhua Highway, likely triggered by a nearby reinforcement project, was still smoldering late Wednesday afternoon after starting Tuesday morning but had not caused any injuries, firefighters said Wednesday.

The fire, on the Daqingshui Tunnel around the 159.4-kilometer mark of the highway along Taiwan's rugged east coast, was partly contained Tuesday afternoon but reignited in the evening, according to the Hualien County Fire Department.

Controlling the fire was challenging because of the large quantity of tires, chains and steel sheets stored above the tunnel to serve as a protective buffer against rockfalls, firefighters said.

After 18 hours of unsuccessful attempts to put out the blaze, the department sent 58 firefighters to the scene Wednesday to work with the Highway Bureau to remove the combustible materials, they said.

The fire may have originated from work being done to repair the tunnel's roof, which was damaged by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake on April 3, firefighters said.

Photo courtesy of Hualien County Fire Department May 14, 2024
Photo courtesy of Hualien County Fire Department May 14, 2024

Several sparks may have fallen on the tires, igniting a fire that nearly destroyed the entire tunnel roof, according to the department.

Fortunately for motorists, the fire did not affect existing traffic controls in the region between kilometers 154 and 166 imposed after the earthquake, the Highway Bureau said.

There remains three time slots during the day when vehicle access is allowed: from 6-8 a.m., noon-1 p.m. and 5-7 p.m., it said.

Motorists are advised to travel through the affected area with their windows closed, however, due to a large amount of dioxins released by the fire, the department said.

(By Lee Hsien-feng and Lee Hsin-Yin)

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Photo courtesy of a private contributor May 14, 2024
Photo courtesy of a private contributor May 14, 2024
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