A power cut in the pedestrian tunnel under Antwerp’s Scheldt river saw six commuters trapped in a lift for two hours after the fire service was not allowed to free them.
The historic Sint-Anna tunnel – more often just called the pedestrian tunnel by locals – was hit with a power cut on Wednesday evening, leaving sections of the tunnel in darkness and causing the lifts to grind to a halt. While rescuing people from elevators is normally a job for the fire service, due to the protected status of the lifts a specialised firm had to come to the scene to free the people.
“Those lifts are historically protected, so you can’t just force them. That’s why the fire brigade couldn’t do much and we had a specialist firm come on site. They finally succeeded in freeing the commuters,” Wouter Bruyns of the Antwerp police told local media.
The tunnel under the river was first opened in 1933, following years of discussion on an effective way to connect the two parts of the city. While locals agreed to the need for a connection in 1874, fears over the impact on shipping traffic meant that multiple plans for a bridge would fall flat.
By 1931, the decision was made to build a tunnel under the river instead, with grand wooden escalators on each side to allow access. These escalators, alongside the lift, remain the main way to access the underwater tunnel connecting the banks of the river.
According to Jef Schoenmaekers of the Agency for Roads and Traffic, incidents like the powercut and breakdown are fairly common in the tunnel, but should be fixed in the future.
“It’s the first time that it took us so long to free the people. We are going to investigate why. We are also preparing for the renovation of the pedestrian tunnel and the lifts. That should get rid of those problems,” he told VRT
The Brussels Times