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About 170 Die in Austria Train Fire

November 11, 2000

VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ A train transporting skiers to an Austrian Alpine resort caught fire as it passed through a mountain tunnel Saturday, killing about 170 people, the provincial governor said.

Salzburg Gov. Franz Schausberger told reporters in Salzburg that only eight people managed to save themselves from the burning car, which apparently held about 180 people.

The train, pulled by cable through a tunnel for most of the more than 3,200 yards up the Kitzsteinhorn mountain to the ski slopes, was reported to be stopped around 600 yards inside the tunnel. Rescuers were unable to reach the train compartment where fire broke out at about 9:30 a.m.

The fire was still burning more than three hours after it broke out, sending smoke spewing out from the bottom of the tunnel, said Norbert Karlsboeck, the mayor of Kaproun, the town at the base of the track, about 50 miles south of Vienna in the heart of the Austrian Alps.

State television said without attribution that the massive steel cable pulling the cars up the slope apparently broke before the fire broke out.

A massive rescue operation was mounted with some 13 helicopters, teams of police, doctors and Red Cross workers all at the site, the mayor said. Helicopters also were making their way from neighboring Bavaria, in southern Germany, carrying firefighters with special equipment.

``We do not know anything about the reason for the fire, only that it broke out on the train,″ Karlsboeck said.

The resort is a popular summer and early winter skiing area.

Police were calling on motorists to keep away from the area so as not to hinder rescue attempts.

Update hourly