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Robot offers hope for fighting tunnel fires

Eleven people died in the Gotthard tunnel fire Keystone Archive

An Austrian company has unveiled a new remote-controlled fire-fighting machine which, it claims, provides a more effective and safer way to tackle tunnel fires like the recent Gotthard tragedy.

This content was published on December 3, 2001 - 10:29

The Luf 60, which is essentially a cross between a traditional snow cannon and a robot, can climb stairs and navigate obstacle. It comes equipped with heat sensors.

According to Bruno Walter, co-owner of Rechner's Biegesysteme, its greatest attribute is that it can fight fires, allowing emergency workers to stay out of harm's way.

"In tunnel fires, firemen can get killed," he said. "They try to help other people and that's very dangerous. The main reason for this machine is to protect them."

Walter cited the example of the Gotthard tunnel fire, in which 11 people died, as an example of where the Luf 60, which has reportedly performed well in trials, could have been a useful tool.

"We have put four cars in a tunnel, filled them with old tyres, soaked the whole lot in petrol and then set it all alight," revealed Walter. "After 15 minutes we sent in the Luf and the fire was out ten minutes later. It was absolutely no problem."

Rechner's Biegesysteme has now started selling the Luf 60 to countries around the world, including Switzerland where the machine was recently unveiled in St Gallen.

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