Swiss tunnel rescuers quench fire, hunt for bodies

Swiss police said on Friday it was unlikely they would find any more dead victims two days after a crash in the Gotthard Alpine tunnel that has claimed 11 lives and left more than 100 people missing.

Swiss police said on Friday it was unlikely they would find any more dead victims two days after a crash in the Gotthard Alpine tunnel that has claimed 11 lives and left more than 100 people missing.

"We now believe there are no other dead," a police spokesman told news persons in Airolo, at the southern end of the 10 mile tunnel that is one of Europe's busiest north-south routes.

The news provided a ray of hope to the country's worst road tunnel disaster, a killer blaze sparked by a head-on collision between two trucks on Wednesday.

Police had feared many more than the 11 confirmed dead could still be buried in a mass of debris around the core of the conflagration or "red zone," a 164 foot stretch of twisted metal and rubble all fused together by a fierce fire that reached temperatures of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.

They said there were still 113 people officially listed as missing, down from 128 missing reported earlier. But police cautioned the number of missing could have been inflated by calls from anxious friends and relatives to more than one emergency service.

There's always a possibility that somebody might have been incinerated," said Romano Piazzini, police chief in the canton (state) of Ticino on the Italian border.

"But it's hard to believe that a 113 bodies would be found in the 'red zone' where there are only 12 vehicles."

After firefighters finally managed to put out the blaze on Friday, rescue crews peered into the blackened hulks of abandoned cars near the accident site. But they found no remains inside the tunnel, which links the Swiss towns of Goeschenen in the north with Airolo, 10 miles from Italy's frontier.

"We managed to put out the fire, bring down the temperature and get into that area where there were some abandoned vehicles, but no one was in them," said Airolo fire chief Rinaldo Kumin.

Bureau Report

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