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Safety Issues Addressed in New Channel Tunnel

November 11, 1990| Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

Now that British and French workers have seen the light at the end of the tunnel (the momentous breakthrough was made Oct. 30), attention again has turned to the question of safety in the Channel Tunnel.

Fire, flood, derailment or terrorist attack in the 30-mile link could be a nightmare (and no doubt a TV movie of the week). So Eurotunnel, the Anglo-French consortium building the underwater link between Britain and France, is taking extensive precautions for the safety of about 28 million people a year who are expected to use the privately financed, $15-billion tunnel after it opens in 1993.

For one thing, trains making the 35-minute trip through the three-tunnel system (main tunnels run in opposite directions separated by a service tunnel) will be linked by radio and closed-circuit cameras to a control center.

One of the main safety features is a 30-minute fire-resistant seal, designed to enable the trains to exit the tunnel so that any blaze can be fought in the open. Also, trains will have an engine at each end in case one breaks down.

Other safety features include backup power systems and guardrails on either side of the rail track designed to maintain a train upright and traveling in a straight line even if it is derailed. In addition, gas, liquefied petroleum gas, nuclear waste, corrosive chemicals and other volatile products will be banned from the tunnel.

Travel Quiz: What is 180 degrees east and 180 degrees west of Greenwich, England? (Answer below.)

Soon, Danish: The Department of Transportation has approved American Trans Air's request for a scheduled route linking Los Angeles with Copenhagen. Service is expected to begin in mid-December.

Florida Scare: Florida's worst outbreak of mosquito-borne encephalitis in 13 years has thrown a scare into the state's $26-billion-a-year tourist industry that is already feeling sluggish from declines in the national economy and rising gasoline prices.

So far this year, 76 cases of St. Louis encephalitis and three deaths have been confirmed in 22 south and central counties stretching from Tampa to Miami. Orange County, with tourist-rich Orlando as the county seat, accounts for the greatest number of cases with 14.

Flu-like symptoms are most common, but the young and old are susceptible to complications.

For current information, the state's Department of Commerce has set up a recording. Call (904) 488-6397.

Quick Fact: One out of every five people on earth has a radio.

It's Not the Outback, Mate: Each of the 159 rooms at Sydney's newest luxury hotel, the Park Hyatt, has a telefax outlet, a separate dressing area, CD player, VCR and a personal safe. Other features of the hotel include a concierge and private butler on each floor.

Down Ecuador Way: Getting to South America might soon become a lot easier for West Coast residents, who traditionally have had to make the journey via Miami.

Continental Airlines has applied to the Department of Transportation to extend its Houston-Panama City route to Guayaquil, Ecuador, three times a week, and wants to add Quito in the future.

No Rail Bargain: Germany will spend $80 billion over the next 10 years to bring rail service in what was once East Germany up to the standard of the rest of the country.

Quicker Fact: The cheetah can go from 0 to 45 m.p.h. in two seconds, but the blue-fin tuna can move almost as fast over a short distance.

Money Down the Spout: The same gallon of gasoline that costs 22 cents in Caracas, Venezuela, will set motorists back $4.70 in Rome or Milan.

Europe's soaring gas prices were confirmed recently by Runzheimer International, a Wisconsin management consulting company that compares international gasoline costs each quarter.

According to the company's fall survey, gas prices in Milan and Rome are the highest in the world. Stockholm and Paris aren't far behind at $4.57 and $4.24 a gallon, respectively.

In other European cities, the following prices per gallon were quoted: Dublin, $4.15; Helsinki, $4.14; Amsterdam, $3.94; Copenhagen, $3.90; Oslo, $3.73; Lisbon, $3.66; Brussels, $3.56, Madrid, $3.34; London, $3.25; Zurich, $3.19; Munich and Athens, $3.15, and Cologne, France, $3.06.

Prices were also high in Tokyo ($3.76) and Hong Kong ($3.43). Gas was cheapest in Caracas, 22 cents; Bogota, Colombia, 56 cents; Cairo, 69 cents, and Mexico City, 77 cents.

Quiz Answer: The International Date Line.

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