Incidents at two transit systems prompt fears of infrastructure weaknesses

World Today

Smoke and fire in two underground train systems have raised new concerns about the safety of America’s mass transit systems just as the world faces renewed worries about terrorism.

Incidents at two transit systems prompt fears of infrastructure weaknesses

Smoke and fire in two underground train systems have raised new concerns about the safety of America's mass transit systems just as the world faces renewed worries about terrorism.

At a construction site in New York City’s Penn Station, an accidental electrical fire caused heavy damage and delayed riders. In Washington D.C., smoke filled a subway tunnel before Monday evening’s commute, killing one person and injuring dozens.

“The train shut down. And there was a lot of smoke, and people could barely breathe,” D.C. Metro passenger Denzel Hatch said.

The exact cause of the incident is still under investigation.

“The train did not derail. There was no fire on the train. The arcing event was on the wayside, involving the third rail and the supply cables going to the third rail,” NTSB Investigator Mike Flanigon said of the shut-down train in Washington.

Riders described a chaotic scene. With little guidance from authorities, trapped riders were forced to improvise.

“There were reports of a lot of smoke, smoke getting into the train, and people… what’s called self-evacuate. That is they started opening the doors and getting off,” Flanigon said.

The White House said there was no apparent connection to terrorism with the incident in D.C., but recent events have renewed concerns about terrorism around the world. And the chaotic response to this event is leading some critics to wonder if U.S. infrastructure may be too vulnerable, whether from a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or from an accident.