Over 600 stuck in broken-down Thalys train as temps hit 45°C
Update: A spokesperson for Thalys later corrected a prior company statement to say there were more than 600 passengers on the train which broke down, not 700 as was originally reported.
A technical malfunction left over 600 people stranded on a Thalys train with no air conditioning just outside Saint-Denis station in Paris for several hours on Tuesday evening, during one of the hottest days Europe's had in recorded history. The extreme temperatures caused the breakdown, a Thalys spokesperson confirmed to NL Times. "More than 4 hours waiting with +40 degrees. And no one with information," one traveler said on Twitter.
The Thalys train to Amsterdam and Brussels departed from the Paris Gare du Nord station at around 6:30 p.m., an hour late, with no information given to the passengers, traveler Lydie Leers said to newspaper AD. There were over 600 passengers and about 10 crew members on the train when it departed. It broke down a few minutes into the trip. The air conditioning system shut down not much later, and temperatures quickly started to climb. "The air conditioner is not working. We are all wet with sweat. Several people have become unwell, and we can't get out," she said.
Some passengers eventually broke a window to let in some fresh air. People standing on the platform at the train station tried to throw water across several sets of tracks into the train. Water was also eventually distributed from the train's bar, but travelers received no information about what was happening.
I am in the #thalys from #paris to #Brussels close to #saintdenis @thalys_en @thalys_nl @NewsroomThalys can you please do something? People want to leave the train after 4h in the heat pic.twitter.com/hYJUAP0ngT— Vincent Brenn (@vinbrenn) July 19, 2022
"I have been handing out water with people from the Thalys in the super hot carriages. Numerous children on board, one even younger than 2 years. Window was smashed by someone to let air in. Because opening doors was impossible," Twitter user Tom van Heymbeeck said. He, too, complained about Thalys not providing information. "People had to figure out for themselves what to do."
The evacuation of the train could not begin until about three hours after it broke down, a spokesperson confirmed. She said many safety measures needed to be implemented to handle the evacuation as the train broke down at a station but not at a platform. Meanwhile, the temperatures inside the train continued to climb.
On Twitter, a stuck passenger spoke of a terrible and dangerous situation, being stuck in temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius for hours, especially for people with heart conditions. Thalys said in response: "We're very sorry for this situation. We understand that this situation is extremely uncomfortable. Assistance is on the way."
According to AD, at least two people became unwell in the heat, and a doctor had to be called in. Despite this, the doors still wouldn't open, traveler Leers said to the newspaper. "We were just told to be patient."
During the incident, Thalys only said that it understood this was an "extremely unpleasant" situation. "We are currently receiving a lot of messages, and they are all being taken seriously. It is also being said that windows were smashed, this will immediately be passed on to the operations center," the international train service said.
Eventually, all of the passengers were removed from the train. They were then sent to the Gare du Nord station in Paris, but, the rail company could not find hotels for the passengers stuck at the station without accommodation due to the peak tourism season in the French capital. "For people who did not have a place to stay in Paris, we opened a train where people could sleep for the night." Thalys provided food, water, blankets, and pillows, the spokesperson said. The train was powered with air conditioning, and guards were stationed there for safety.
"It's a very exceptional situation indeed."
All passengers left Paris for their destination on Wednesday morning, she confirmed. Photos from inside the replacement service showed many people sitting wherever they could find space, including on the floor.
Thalys said it was studying the incident and how it was handled. “We’re looking into it. We’ll have an investigation on how to prevent this in the future,” the spokesperson stated.