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BART evacuation: Smoking brakes prompt commuters to evacuate San Francisco train

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A BART evacuation Wednesday morning was prompted by a brake problem on the San Francisco commuter train after thick smoke poured into the passenger cabins, reports CBS SF Bay Area on Wednesday.

A brake problem caused smoke to enter the train, causing alarm among the hundreds of passengers who were forced to evacuate the unmanned commuter train. The problem occurred while the train was passing through the Berkeley Hills Tunnel, stopping the train between the Orinda and Rockridge BART stations.

"This is primarily due to being confined on the train in the tunnel, and there was smoke or brake dust that resulted from the train trying to move while the brake was engaged," BART spokesman Jim Allison said, adding that there was no actual fire as had been earlier reported.

Officials said that a rescue train with firefighters was sent out to attempt to reach the disabled train but that they could not get to the stranded passengers.

Eventually, BART operators were able to move the train to the Rockridge station, where the 700 or so commuters who were stuck on the train could then evacuate. The passengers were trapped for a solid hour, and many reported difficulty breathing. Some evacuated passengers had to be taken off in stretchers wearing oxygen masks.

A total of none people were hospitalized.

After the incident, many of the commuters complained that they could not open the doors to ventilate or evacuate the cars, but BART says that is a standard safety procedure so that people do not risk walking on or near the tracks.

"When the ventilation system starts in the tunnel, it's an automatic closure of the doors and that is for the safety of the personnel on the train as well as the firefighters responding," Oakland Fire Chief Melinda Drayton explained.

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