Sunday, 7 December 2014

61 rescued from stalled Sentosa train

Last passenger evacuated at 2am yesterday after 2-hour op by SCDF
By Amelia Teng, The Straits Times, 6 Dec 2014

THE lights in the carriage were going off, the air-conditioner had shut down, and for close to two hours on Thursday night, 61 passengers were trapped in a Sentosa Express train that had stalled due to a technical fault.

The two-carriage light rail train was heading towards VivoCity when it stalled at 10.10pm between Imbiah and Beach stations.

The stranded passengers were eventually rescued by Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers after a two-hour operation.

A spokesman for the Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC), which manages the island, said initial investigations showed a technical fault had caused a power outage, leading to the train stalling.

The affected train has been repaired and train service resumed normal operations at 7am yesterday, the spokesman said. Further investigations are ongoing.

Mr Koh Piak Huat, divisional director of operations at Sentosa Leisure Management, said a rescue train was activated to ferry the 61 passengers, including 11 Sentosa staff, back to the nearest station, Imbiah, in accordance with standard safety rescue procedures.

"However, due to technical difficulties in moving the rescue train, the SCDF was eventually called in to assist with the rescue operations," he said.

An SCDF spokesman said the force received a call for help at 11.30pm. It sent a fire engine, a red rhino, two ambulances and two supporting vehicles for the rescue operation.

Major Eugene Phng, commander of the Central Fire Station, said that SCDF officers guided passengers to climb down from the train using ladders. For safety reasons, each passenger had to wear a helmet and be secured by a safety line before going down.

Elderly passengers were strapped securely to stretchers before being brought down. The last passenger was evacuated at around 2am. One passenger, a 48-year-old woman, was taken to Singapore General Hospital as she complained of discomfort.

Mr Koh said passengers were given regular updates on the rescue operation, as well as bottled water. The SDC also paid for taxis to transport them home, he said.

Mr Tushat Raut, who was in the train with his wife when it stopped, said: "The staff were calm and well prepared... They also arranged for free taxi drops for each of us to get back to our homes and hotels. I would like to thank them for taking care of us."

Some passengers took to social media to describe the incident.

Ms Shruthi Suresh, a research engineer, posted photos of the train's surroundings on Twitter and wrote: "Stuck on the Sentosa Express. There seems to be a fault with the electric lines. This is amusing and a new experience."

She posted several updates before thanking the Sentosa management for "arranging for us to get home safely".

What if fire broke out on Sentosa monorail?
Safety issue raised after Dec 4 glitch as it has no emergency walkway
By Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Dec 2014

THE Sentosa monorail breakdown that left 61 people stranded for four hours a fortnight ago has raised questions about what might have happened if there was a fire.

Industry observers said the Sentosa system does not have a walkway that would allow passengers to escape from an onboard fire - unlike the MRT, LRT or some newer monorail lines.

But the authorities and the operator of the system gave the assurance that the risk of fire is minuscule and well mitigated.

A Sentosa Development Corp spokesman said the likelihood of a fire is low. The trains are made of fire-retardant materials and drivers are trained to use an onboard fire extinguisher. Should there be a fire, trains will be brought to the nearest station, she said.

But on Dec 4, the train that broke down could not move. And when passengers were transferred to a rescue train, it could not decouple from the stranded train and became stranded too.

Industry experts point out that a fire extinguisher may not be of much use as many fires start from outside the train cabin.

Examples of such fires include the 1968 San Antonio monorail fire (cause unknown); 1985 Disneyland monorail fire (flat tyres ignited after being dragged along track); 1988 Philadelphia Zoo monorail fire (electrical); 2004 Seattle monorail fire (electrical); and 2006 Shanghai Mag-Lev (technically a monorail) fire (electrical).

Fortunately, none of the incidents resulted in death or injury, except for the one in Seattle, when nine people were injured.

The Land Transport Authority could not comment on the fire issue because it said the Sentosa monorail does not come under its purview. It suggested that the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) - which enforces the Amusement Rides Safety Act - may be in charge.

The BCA, however, said the Sentosa monorail was not an amusement ride, "as it is primarily used as a mode of transportation".

It in turn suggested that the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) be contacted.

SCDF spokesman Leslie Williams said Sentosa has a Company Emergency Response Team that can respond to a fire before SCDF firefighters arrive.

This team is audited by the SCDF, he added.

He noted that it took merely four minutes for SCDF to arrive at the scene when it was contacted on Dec 4. "Within two hours, a total of 61 passengers - four on stretchers - were rescued from the stalled train," he said.

When asked, he would not say if SCDF was satisfied with what is in place in terms of fire evacuation.

But safety and quality firm TUV Rheinland said there is an American code that is widely accepted as an industry standard when it comes to monorail fires.

The US National Fire Protection Agency's NFPA 130 mandates that all monorail systems must facilitate complete evacuation within 15 minutes.

Mr Timothy Toh, managing director of TUV Rheinland Singapore, said: "That is the time the fire-retardant material will usually hold. After that, it may emit toxic fumes or give way."

He said one way to meet this standard was to have emergency walkways next to the track. Newer systems have such walkways.

Fire-safety features of Sentosa monorail

WE ASSURE the public that the Sentosa Express is a safe monorail system designed with features that meet the stringent regulatory standards for railways in Japan ("What if fire broke out on Sentosa monorail"; Tuesday).

Our monorail system is powered by an electric circuit running along the track, and the train's structure and interiors are made of non-combustible materials. As such, the likelihood of a fire breaking out on the Sentosa Express is extremely low.

For additional safety, our trains are also equipped with automatic heat detection sensors and a fire suppression system. When heat is detected at the undercarriage of the train, an alarm will be triggered to alert the train captain, and the in-built fire suppression system will automatically discharge a dry chemical powder to extinguish the fire.

In the event of a fire, the train captain will take the train to the nearest station for immediate passenger evacuation. Each train is fitted with four fire extinguishers; there are also fire extinguishers on each station platform.

Concurrently, Sentosa's operations control centre will activate the Sentosa Rangers and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) to provide necessary assistance.

The Sentosa Rangers has a Workforce Skills Qualifications-certified team called Cert (Company Emergency Response Team) that is audited by the SCDF, to attend to any fire prior to the SCDF's arrival.

As part of emergency procedures, our service staff will secure and cordon off the stations, and work expeditiously to get all our guests to safety.

Safety is a key priority for Sentosa. The Sentosa Rangers and service teams will continue to work closely with the authorities to conduct regular safety drills on various scenarios, to fine-tune and improve our emergency response procedures.

Koh Piak Huat
Divisional Director, Operations
Island Operations
Sentosa Leisure Management
ST Forum, 19 Dec 2014

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