||Daegu, South Korea
||18 February 2003
A subway train was set on fire with gasoline, destroying
two trains and causing large casualties of 192 deaths and
148 injuries at Jungangno Station.
Fire duration = 3 hours
||Tunnel roof spalling
||No fire protection. No sprinklers at platform level.
B1 (concourse/shopping mall), floor area = 3847 m2
B2 (concourse/office), floor area = 4586 m2
B3 (Platform - Fire floor), floor area = 2004 m2
Daegu (also known as Taegu) is an inland city located about
300 km southeast from Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
The Daegu Metropolitan Subway Line No. 1 has an operational
distance of 25.9 km between Daegok and Ansim with 30 stations.
In total, the line has 4.15 km long of bored tunnel and 23.45
km long of box section constructed by the cut-and-cover method.
The incident station, Jungangno Station, is located at the downtown
of Daegu which is one of the busiest stations. The subway station
is a reinforced concrete structure with three basements as shown
in Figure 1. They are:
- Basement B1 (floor area = 3847 m2) contains the concourse.
An underground shopping mall perpendicular to the station is
extended into the central section of the basement.
- Basement B2 (4586 m2) contains the concourse and office room.
- Basement B3 (2004 m2) was the fire floor and contains two platforms
of 169 m long with two tracks in between.
Figure 1 Schematic perspective of Daegu Jungangno Station fire.
(Source: Tsujimoto 2003. Enhanced by OSS)
Fire Protection System
The fire protection systems at the time of the 2003
fire are shown as follows (Tsujimoto 2003):
the Time of Fire in 2003
protection to concrete
- Basements B1 and B2 each had two smoke
barriers made of 5 m high hanging walls to
divide the large area into three compartmentation
- A fire shuttle doubling as an access control
point was installed across the entire width
of the opening to the shopping area at Basement
had the following fire detection systems:
- Automatic fire detectors (except B3)
- Smoke detectors
- Fire alarms
Basements B1 and B2 were equipped with
Platform B3 was equipped with smoke control
installations and fire hydrants
- CO2 suppression systems
- Portable fire extinguishers
- Smoke control installations (40000 m3/hr
in each section)
- Fire hydrants
had direction and emergency lights
On 18 February 2003, a subway train was set on fire
by a mentally ill patient at Jungangno Station in
Daegu, South Korea. The fire quickly spread to all
six coaches of the train within 2 minutes due to the
highly flammable interior of the train. The seats,
flooring and advertisement boards were not made of
fire proof materials but composed of flammable fiberglass,
carbonated vinyl and polyethylene. The fire had also
spread to another train in the opposite direction
which stopped alongside, killing all the passengers
trapped in it.
The complete burning of a total of 12 subway coaches
generated intense heat and poisonous smoke filled
the entire station. The platform had no sprinklers
and no one attempted to fight the fire. The temperature
of the platform on Basement B3 quickly raised over
1000ˇăC, burning down the facilities, signposts and
ceiling of the platform. The fire then spread to the
B2 concourse and the ticket punching stand.
In the early minutes after the fire ignition, the
fire detection systems had shut down the power supply
in the station and closed down all smoke barriers
at B1 and B2. The fire shutters installed at the entrance
of the shopping mall passage at B1 was also closed.
Ironically, this compartmentation effectively worked
to concentrate the heat and smoke at the central section
of B2, causing large casualties (see Figure 1).
A total of 192 people died and another 148 people
were injured in the fire.
A brief account of the fire development is given
- Train 1079 from Banwoldang Station stopped
at Jungangno Station.
- Before the train entered the station, a
mentally ill man, 56, had set a fire on the
fifth coach with two cartons of gasoline,
about 4 litres, with the intention of committing
- The arsonist escaped along with many passengers
when the train stopped at the station.
- The fire alarm was activated but ignored
by the officials in the Machine and Equipment
- The fire rapidly spread to all six coaches
within 2 minutes.
- Train 1080 in the opposite direction left
Daegu Station and headed towards Jungangno
- Train 1080 stopped alongside Train 1079
which was on fire, about 1.3 m away.
- The platform level was full of smoke from
the fire of Train 1079.
- The doors of Train 1080 opened briefly and
closed immediately by the driver to prevent
the smoke coming into the coaches.
- Power supply to Train 1080 was shut down
by fire detection system.
- The driver of Train 1080 was waiting
for re-supply of power and the order of his
superior, not letting the passengers to evacuate.
- The driver fled the train without opening
the doors of passenger coaches.
- The fire spread to the train and consequently
killed 79 passengers who were trapped.
| The fire was
extinguished. However, because of the toxic smoke,
the rescue was commenced around 15:30 hours to
recover the dead bodies.
The subway station did not suffer major structural
damage in the fire except for the extensive spalling
of the tunnel roof above the central portion of Train
1080, exposing two layers of steel reinforcement.
The non-structural damage included the complete destruction
of the platform basement and the smoke contamination
throughout the station. In addition, two subway trains
with a total of 12 passenger coaches were completed
It was an unusual practice to allow easily flammable
materials for the interior of mass rapid transit vehicles.
The flammable seats and flooring in the Daegu Subway
trains led to a very rapid of fire growth and fire
spread. The dense dark and poisonous smoke generated
by the burning of the plastic materials blocked the
escape way of the victims, incapacitated their mobility
and ultimately a lot of them suffocated.
The worse part is that the emergency and fire control
systems of the subway station did not work properly
at the time of the fire. The inquiry into the fire
event showed that the key control officials of the
station were guilty of professional negligence.
Little information was available in the public domain
on how the emergency and fire control systems worked
during the fire. However, the general responses showed
that the station lacked emergency lighting, the ventilation
system was inadequate and the sprinklers did not function.
This event highlighted the importance of enough safety
training of the operators of public transports.
After this tragedy, the Korean government promised
to enhance the fire safety to all subway systems in
the country. All passenger trains must use fire proof
material in the interiors. However, it was reported
that, except the Daegu Subway, the replacement of
the flammable interiors to fire proof materials progressed
slowly in other subway systems in Korea due to the
Sources of Information
- JoongAng Daily - Website
- National Emergency Management Agency (2004).
"Fire in Daegu Subway." Disaster Reports
- Online, South Korea.
- Tsujimoto, M. (2003). "Issues raised by the
recent subway fire in South Korea." ICUS/INCEDE
Newsletter, 3(2), Institute of Industrial Science,
The University of Tokyo, pp 1-3.