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VIDEO: Hither Green train evacuated as smoke billows from carriage fire
10:10am Tuesday 27th August 2013 in News By Robert Fisk, Tim MacFarlan and Patrick Grafton-Green
THIS video shows the moment panicked commuters were forced to evacuate a smoking train at Hither Green station this morning.
Around 500 passengers on the 7.17am Gravesend to Charing Cross service had to get out after smoke was seen billowing from a fire under the carriages.
Passengers pulled the emergency alarm to stop the train before Network Rail had to turn off power to the lines causing delays and cancellations in the area.
The eight car train ended up half on the platform and half off with commuters in the rear four coaches having to jump down onto the track before being escorted through the nearby depot by train staff.
It is thought train’s shoe gear – the component which draws power from the track – overheated and billowed with smoke.
Mit Patel, 30, of Harbour Road, Gravesend, said: "I was on the carriage where the fire was.
"There were continuous sparks for 10, 15, 20 seconds. After that the train stopped.
"There were flames and sparks. It was start and stop and start and stop so you didn't know what was going to happen.
"Then smoke started coming out. There was panic on the train, there was shouting and swearing, people were going crazy."
“It was a traumatic experience in terms of the way it was handled.
"A lot of passengers were helping calm people down but the staff were doing nothing.
"They were ridiculous. When everyone got out they didn’t know where to go."
Video from Youtube by BublzMedia.
Fellow train user Sarah Palmer was also unhappy with how staff dealt with the situation.
She said: "I was on the train that caught on fire and was absolutely disgusted at the lack of help we received from Southeastern staff.
"First of all the driver announced 'sorry for the delay to your journey we should be on our way shortly' while smoke was billowing through the train.
"He would not open the doors. The carriage next to ours was actually on fire and we could hear people shouting 'get off get off the train is on fire'.
"A man on our carriage managed to get the doors open and we all jumped off.
"We had to walk along the track to Hither Green and there was not one member of staff there to see if we were ok or to offer medical help.
"There were people crying, screaming and coughing. I think Southeastern has a lot to answer for."
Southeastern apologised to passengers for the incident.
A spokesman said: “This was an understandably distressing event for the passengers onboard the train this morning. Thankfully we’ve had no reports of any passengers injured.
“The train has been taken out of service and the cause of the fault is being fully investigated.
“Station staff rushed to assist the passengers onboard and staff from Network Rail’s nearby depot assisted passengers on the ground to evacuate through the depot.”
Buses replaced services between Dartford and London Bridge via Sidcup and services were diverted via Bexleyheath.
The lines were re-opened at 10am with some knock-on delays and services were fully back to normal by 11.45am.
A London Fire Brigade spokeswoman said two engines from Lee Green and Lewisham were needed to deal with the blaze.
She said: “We were called at 7.55am this morning to reports a smoke coming from a train at Hither Green.
“It was a small fire on the engine’s running gear on coach five. The train stopped at the platform and all passengers got off.
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