Sometime back I “reported” on a fire we witnessed at Rome. Again, on the subject of fire, the 1 July 2015 was the hottest July day on record in the UK -so far- with a maximum temperature of 36.7°C! We happened to be in Edinburgh at the time, departing to Newcastle by train. Why Newcastle? you would rightly ask. Because of the beauty of buying cheap plane tickets on line! There was a substantial diference flying from Newcastle to Paris than from Edinburgh. Paris was our stopover on our way to Johannesburg and eventually Harare.
Most people were feeling hot and bothered that day. We were quite comfortable with the first summer day we had encountered since our arrival in Scotland a few days earlier. I even managed to remove my thin polartec jumper and go about in a shirt for a couple of hours, until the sun got weaker and I needed it back again!
We arrived at Edinburgh Waverley Train station in mid morning, clearly too early for our 13:10 train to Newcastle. As we travel loaded with suitcases, we prefer to wait than to rush! Surrounded by lots of red-faced and sweaty people we found a quiet corner and prepared for the longish wait. I walked the station up and down to familiarize myself with its platforms, particularly ours. After that we talked -mostly about our son’s graduation, the suitability of our plane seats and our eagerness to arrive to Harare as soon as possible- until the time come to walk to platform 11, the right place according to the information board. Despite carrying large suitcases and hand luggage for our flight, our progress was good and we got there in good time.
The train arrived on time and people disembarked so we waited politely until the intructions to board came. We did not take two steps towards our coach before we got stunned rather than heard a really overwhelmingly loud siren followed by the announcement that there was an emergency and that the station needed to be immediately evacuated. I suddenly understood the sinking heart feeling! I had a last longing look at our train, the vanishing link with Harare, and started walking with our luggage uphill towards the exit. We were part of a multitude moving in a very orderly fashion with no apparent panic.
While walking my brain tried to come to grips with the situation. Missing the train meant missing all the flights for reasons not related to any of the airlines involved so they were under no obligation of putting us on a other flight! Even if they agreed to do this, would the right flights be available? I recalled the difficulties I have had earlier to get better seats for our long journeys, even at a cost and I new then that it was going to be expensive and difficult and asking for a refund did not event come to mind at the time!
While pondering on the vulnerability of present day plane travel, with every step towards the exit my desperation augmented as I could see no easy way out of it! Then, luckily and as fast as the crisis started, it ended! Railway employees came running to inform us that those passengers leaving within the next 30 minutes were allowed to turn back and board their respective trains as soon as possible as the alert had been cancelled!
Probably the intense heat triggered some fire alarm that brought about the evacuation order that, on further checking, was lifted. This was the fastest turn around I remember doing with heavy suitcases and I am sure that we went down towards the train at record speed although, unlike the temperature, no one recorded our movement! Luckily our train was still there and we did a boarding worth of a good pirate!
This post would have ended here except that four days later, on the 5 July there was another scare of a fire at Edinburgh Waverley that mobilized three fire engines to control it. This time the scare was caused by the passing of the Tornado steam locomotive through the station! It seems that Edinburgh Waverley is rather jittery when it comes to fires so I made a mental note to avoid it in future.