Passenger on Blazing Israel Train: Two More Minutes and We Would Have Been Trapped

Eyewitnesses to fire near central town of Shfayim say passengers forced to break windows and pry open doors to escape.

Passengers on an Israel Railways train that caught fire en route to Tel Aviv on Tuesday described a chaotic scene in which people were forced to break windows to save their own lives.

"Suddenly we heard screaming that [the train] was on fire," a young woman named Hannan told Haaretz. "At first they said there were gunshots and everyone started panicking. People did not wait for the doors to open and some of them began busting open the windows of the car."

Israel Railways fire Moti Milrod
Moti Milrod

Five people were moderately hurt in the incident andsome 70 others were treated for light injuries, including smoke inhalation, burns, cuts and shock. All of the passengers were evacuated quickly after people began breaking the glass windows and prying open doors to escape.

"We saw the fire creeping out of the back of the train. We didn't know what had happened," she added. "People simply ran outside in hysteria. For a moment we didn't know where we were, in this open area with nowhere to run. There were ditches on both sides and it took a few long minutes before the first rescue forces arrived."

"I saw some people whose hands were covered in blood from breaking the windows, but as far as I could tell, there were no serious injuries," said Hannan. "Most of the casualties were just in shock."

According to Hannan, the train operators gave no instruction on how or when to evacuate over the course of the event. "Things only came together when the police came," she said.

Another eyewitness, Ofir Steinfeld, said that the passengers' quick escape had prevented a real disaster. "If we had stayed two more minutes we would have been trapped there," he said. "The minute we got off the train there was an explosion, I don't know what from, maybe the plastic, and it startled many people who started to run in the direction the train was traveling."

In addition to breaking windows, Steinfeld said passengers had to pry the train doors open after they failed to do so automatically.

Rescue workers confirmed that all passengers had been evacuated. It took firefighters nearly an hour to control the blaze, which apparently began in the back engine and spread to three cars.