Incident Led To Major Highway Law Upgrade
TODAY, JULY 7 MARKS THE 25th ANNIVERSARY of a tragic accident in the town of Herborn, Germany, that led to the first comprehensive set of transportation laws in that country for hazardous materials. Just before 8 pm this date in 1987 a gasoline tanker loaded with 36,000 litres of gasoline and diesel fuel was on a downgrade leading into the town center when the brakes overheated and failed.
The truck ran uncontrolled into a deadend where the driver attempted to turn the corner, but the truck flipped and slid along the road, crashing into an ice cream parlor. There was no immediate fire or explosion, allowing the driver and most of the patrons of the ice cream parlor to escape. The ruptured tanker was leaking, though, and sending a small river of fuel onto the sidewalk where it poured through doors into the nearby shops and started running into the storm drains. Four minutes after the initial crash, it found an ignition source triggering a massive explosion leveling the building and spreading fire into all the neighboring structures. A series of following explosions attacked the gas pipes into the other buildings causing them to ignite. Eventually several thousand homes were evacuated until the hazard was over.
Herborn Fire Brigade photo
Herborn is protected by a volunteer fire department that was coincidentally holding its monthly drill that evening and they had a full turnout with a 4-minute response time. However, they were immediately overwhelmed by the size of the disaster and the call for help went out right away. The Frankfurt fire brigade, a career department was 65 miles away, but was dispatched along with scores of other departments.
With the entire town center afire, 750 firefighters, 500 police officers, and 300 rescue personnel were dispatched to the scene. Amazingly, only six people were killed and about 38 more were injured, 25 of them seriously. Due to the crush of gawkers flocking to the scene, ambulances were unable to reach the victims and a fleet of helicopters was used to transport them to hospitals.
The vapor buildup in the sewers led to chain explosions that blew off the manhole covers all down the streets.
The later arriving fire brigades started setting up spill-control dams and a defensive stand was taken at the town's gas station. Aprox. two hours after the alarm, the Frankfurt task force arrived and their commander took charge of the overall operation. By midnight the fire spread was stopped and the incident contained. Around 3 am the fires were out and a massive search and rescue operation was begun.
A total of 12 buildings were completely destroyed and 17 more were heavily damaged.
The first of these two videos has some rare video footage of the fire in progress:
The second video was largely shot on the day after:
The Herborn Fire Brigade posted a timeline description of the incident HERE.
photos above and below via Herborn Feuerwehr (Fire Brigade)
Christian Lewalter, Feuerwehr Weblog
Herborn Fire Brigade WEBSITE.
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Also on FireGeezer…
- Tanker Driver Perishes in Fiery Crash – March 28, 2012