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4 hurt as panic hits LRT passengers

MANILA, Philippines—A passenger who shouted, “May umuusok. May sasabog (There’s smoke. Something’s going to explode)!” caused a panic inside a train of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 Monday morning.

As a result, four people—including two teenage girls—were injured when passengers who wanted to get out of the train broke several glass doors and windows.

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Earlier, a technical malfunction caused smoke to rise from the train’s wheels, throwing some commuters into a panic.

Several people then reportedly punched through the windows and doors just to get out of the coach. The force, however, caused pieces of the glass to fly, hitting four passengers.

Caroline Santos, 22; Jericho Tolentino, 32; Pauline Anne Basco, 13; and Danille Patricia Basco, 15 were taken to the LRT Clinic at the Central Station where they received treatment for minor injuries.

The malfunction led to a 10-minute delay in the overhead light train system’s operations.

LRT Authority (LRTA) administrator Rafael Rodriguez, meanwhile, apologized for the mechanical problem, which he said was caused by a solenoid valve which was repaired in minutes.

(According to a website on the Internet, a solenoid is an electromechanical device which allows an electrical device to control the flow of a gas or liquid.)

Cause of smoke tracked down

After a thorough checking of all the underbodies and internal components of the train, the engineering and maintenance team found out that the smoke was caused by a worn-out solenoid valve, Rodriguez said.

He added that they would reactivate an inventory software to boost the preventive maintenance of train parts.

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Based on reports, a Baclaran-bound train (Body No. 1017) was approaching the United Nations Avenue Station on Taft Avenue in Manila at around 8:45 a.m. when some passengers saw smoke rising from underneath the coach in the middle.

“Some of the passengers pushed the emergency button. When the doors did not open right away, they resorted to breaking the tempered glass doors and windows. Everyone wanted to get off the train right away and did not wait for the automatic doors to open. They went through the broken glass doors and windows,” Evelyn Paragas, LRTA public relations division head, said.

What was supposed to be only a minor technical problem was magnified by the panic that gripped train passengers, she added.

“It was not a problem that was supposed to be scary. It was not even a major technical breakdown. The initial report was that a brake pad of the train had stuck up, causing the smoke. It was that person shouting that [created panic among] the other commuters,” Paragas told the Inquirer.

She said that based on the statement of Santos, who was one of those who were injured, she heard someone shouting that something was going to explode, prompting her to force her way out of the train through the broken glass doors.

A report from the Manila Police District (MPD) Station 5 quoted Police Officer 1 Sherwin Loria of the National Capital Region Police Office as saying that a passenger had approached him and informed him that “when the LRT train was approaching the Carriedo Station, they heard a loud thud coming from an unknown origin and upon reaching the LRT UN station, the incident happened.”

The MPD, however, immediately shot down theories of a terrorist attack on the train as it attributed the smoke to a simple technical problem.

Paragas, meanwhile, said that the LRTA management was deliberating on whether it would pursue charges against the passengers responsible for breaking the glass doors and windows of the train.

But at the same time, she pointed out that it would be virtually impossible to identify them. “I am still not sure if we would pursue them, given that what they did in their panic to get off the train was a normal reaction. So I doubt if they could be blamed for that.”

She added, “The person we would like to identify and charge would be the one who shouted and triggered the panic.”

Monday’s malfunction was the latest in a series of mishaps to hit the LRT and Metro Rail Transit since the start of the year.

Only recently, two trains of the LRT Line 1 were derailed when they collided near the Roosevelt Station after one of the drivers was distracted by his cell phone.

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TAGS: Accidents, Philippines - Metro, Railways, Transport Accident
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