Bus passengers trapped onboard by heavy rains

Rescuers are called to assist with evacuation from underpass


News from around the Baltimore region

August 09, 2005|By Richard Irwin and William Wan | Richard Irwin and William Wan,SUN STAFF

Torrential rains and a clogged storm drain trapped two cars and a Maryland Transit Administration bus carrying 32 passengers last night in a flood-prone East Baltimore underpass, authorities said.

Everyone was rescued in an operation that brought city firefighters with 20 pieces of apparatus, the department's dive and special rescue operations teams and inflatable boats.

The bus was traveling on Pulaski Highway near East Monument Street when it hit the water about 10 p.m., fire officials said.

The road, which dips under a CSX train bridge, had been flooded with rain, bringing the bus to a halt.

As passengers watched, the water rose quickly, reaching just below the windows at its highest point, said Kevin Cartwright, spokesman for the city Fire Department.

The drivers of two cars also were trapped in the flooded underpass, as the water rose as high as 4 1/2 feet and spanned an area about 100 feet long.

The Fire Department's special rescue operations team is trained in swift-water rescues, but that skill was not required as some passengers were assisted to higher ground using the boats and - as the water receded - on foot to a gas station.

One passenger on the MTA bus - a 16-year-old girl - hyperventilated, and was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The flooding problem, said fire Lt. Robert Dunlap, appeared to result from clogged storm drains and water surging up through a manhole near the bottom of the underpass.

After the waters receded, there was a struggle to restart the bus engine, which had flooded. About an hour and a half after the incident, the engine started and the bus rumbled on its way. By 11:45 p.m., traffic resumed on the roadway.

The scattered storms - fueled by tropical moisture stalled across the region - also contributed to numerous traffic accidents.

In Howard County, authorities reported downed trees in Columbia and West Friendship last night after a severe thunderstorm warning predicting winds as strong as 60 mph.

The National Weather Service predicted more thunderstorms for today.

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