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Tunnel du Mont-Blanc

The Mont Blanc highway tunnel that links Italy with France is one of the longest vehicle tunnels in the world.

On the morning of 24 March 1999, 39 people died when a Belgian transport truck carrying flour and margarine caught fire in the tunnel.

After several kilometres, the driver realized something was wrong as cars coming in the opposite direction flashed their headlights at him; a glance in his mirrors showed white smoke coming out from under his cab. This was not yet a fire emergency; there had been 16 other truck fires in the tunnel over the previous 35 years, always extinguished on the spot by the drivers.

Within minutes, two fire trucks from Chamonix responded to the unfolding disaster. The fire had melted the wiring and plunged the tunnel into darkness; in the smoke and with abandoned and wrecked vehicles blocking their path, the fire engines were unable to proceed.

There were 27 deaths in vehicles, and 10 more died trying to escape on foot. Of the initial 50 people trapped by the fire, 12 survived.

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