[EDITORIALS]A close call on the subway

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[EDITORIALS]A close call on the subway

It is fortunate that the fire set yesterday morning by an arsonist on a subway train on line No. 7 in Seoul left no casualties. A female passenger in her 60s, who witnessed the arson, committed by a man in his 50s, informed the engineer via emergency phone so that the train could be evacuated and the fire extinguished before it got serious. Despite the spreading fire, the woman did not run away, but calmly did what was necessary. Her courage prevented a devastating tragedy.
On the other hand, the Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp., which runs subway line No. 7, was careless in putting out the fire. Three cars were completely burned because company employees had not confirmed that the fire was completely extinguished before letting the empty train depart for its final station, during which time the fire started up again. The company did not follow the elementary safety rule that one should examine the remains after a fire. As long as basic rules are ignored, disasters can never be prevented.
Also, when the train pulled into the next station, poisonous smoke blowing out of it, the passengers on the platforms reportedly did not evacuate immediately; they just stared at the train. It is said that they even ignored warning messages to evacuate. They would seem to have real strong guts. Unless such insensibility to danger is corrected, we will continue to hear news of devastating accidents and disasters.
Only 22 months have passed since the Daegu subway train arson that killed 192 people and injured more than 200. Immediately after that disaster, the central and local governments announced various measures and declared that there would be no more such tragedies. But the weak points have been exposed again.
The Seoul government says that the interiors of only 33 percent of the city’s subway cars have been replaced with incombustible material. This means that there are still many “killing carriages” in the city that will produce fatally toxic smoke if they catch fire.
The government should make the safety of subway passengers a priority, and should no longer plead budget shortfalls. And the municipal government, in cooperation with the police department, should construct a permanent screening system to watch out for people commiting crimes in the subway. They should start by stationing more safety agents.
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