French 'rail disaster' was part of training exercise


WHEN COMPANIES retract public statements, it is very often a matter of a sloppy typo or a point of terminology.

Yesterday, France’s national rail operator went one better – issuing a retraction for an alert announcing that 102 people had died when one of its trains exploded in the country’s east.

Anyone perusing the SNCF’s website just before midday yesterday would have read the shocking news that an “explosion of unknown origin” on train number 1234 near the town of Mâcon on the Paris-Dijon line had left at least 102 people dead and almost 400 injured.

“An explosion of unknown origin occurred today at about 8am on TGV 1234 near Mâcon,” the notice read. “The first estimates from the emergency services report 102 deaths and 380 injured. All victims have been evacuated to hospitals at Mâcon.

“The emergency services are still on the scene, along with an emergency medical-psychological unit. Rail traffic has been halted in the region.”

Immediately, people started to text. Twitter cranked into gear.Startled journalists started working the phones. Then, almost an hour later, the company confirmed the message was posted in error.

A disaster training drill had inadvertently reached the public area of the site, they explained.

“On March 16th, just before 12.00, an error appeared on the site relaying information about an accident. This never took place,” the company said, adding that an investigation would seek to find out what had gone wrong.