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Air bag snuffs out tunnel fire hazard

SAFETY experts at Thames Water have invented an inflatable stopper that will improve safety in tunnels under construction.

One of the main hazards in tunnel construction is from fire and smoke.

The tunnel stopper inflates to form a flame-resistant air bag which blocks the passage and shuts out smoke.

All stoppers are custom-made to match the specifications of each tun- nel. A sealable escape hatch in the centre allows workers and rescuers to reach the safety of a relatively smoke-free area of the tunnel.

Thames Water's senior safety adviser Martin May invented the stopper. He said: 'Even when a tunnel fire is safely out, the smoke can still be extremely hazardous. The stopper blocks off the smoke and gives valuable extra time to both workers and rescuers.'

The device can be used for work in Tube station corridors, tunnels and underground passageways where traditional fire doors are unworkable.

The stopper was featured on BBC TV's Tomorrow's World yesterday (Wednesday).