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When was the King’s Cross fire of 1987, how many victims were there in the disaster and what’s changed at the station?

A DEVASTATING fire, the worst in London Underground's history, left 31 people dead and injured more than 100 at King's Cross station on November 18 1987.

Now on the 30th anniversary of the disaster sparked by a stray match beneath a wooden escalator, we recall the horrifying events.

The fire began at around 7.30pm in a machine room under the escalator on November 18 1987.

This escalator connected the Piccadilly line with the mainland station.

More than 150 firefighters would be called to tackle the blaze.

But when they first arrived, the fire was described as the size of a "cardboard box".

Minutes later a "flashover" jet of flames shot up the escalator into the packed ticket hall filling it with intense heat and smoke.

A flashover is caused when organic materials release flammable gas when under intense heat which is ignited.

The sudden burst of fire caused devastation, killing or seriously injuring everyone inside the hall.

Hundreds of commuters were then left trapped below on lower levels, reported the BBC.

Then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said she was "horrified".

The main fire was under control by 10pm, and the parts of the station reopened the next day.

New escalators for the Piccadilly Line at King's Cross were not operational for another 16 months.

Thirty-one people were killed in the fire and more than 100 were taken to hospital, of which 19 suffered serious injuries.

Fireman Colin Townsley, who arrived in the first engine, died in the ticket hall when helping a passenger in difficulty.

One man, commonly known as Michael or Body 115, was not identified until 2004.

Forensic tests revealed him to be Alexander Fallon, 73, of Falkirk, Scotland, who had been living rough in the capital.

A British Transport Police constable Stephen Hanson, suffered severe burns when helping terrified passengers escape.

Kwasi Afari Minta, the most badly burned survivor, underwent 30 operations in 25 years, reported Mirror Online.

The Ghanaian music producer had lived here for two years and was on his way home to Leyton in East London.

He recalls a "huge fireball out of nowhere" hit his face and his hands "melted" when he tried to push himself up.

In the resulting panic, he said was  "trapped (because) all exits were blocked".

"I just knew that if I fell down I would be dead," he added.

Kwasi who remarkably described himself as one of the "lucky ones" suffered horrific injuries to his head and upper body.

When helpers tore his flaming clothes off, he said: "I was so badly burned I couldn’t feel the fire.”

Smoking on London Underground trains had already been banned in July 1984. And the ban was extended to all sub-surface stations after a fire at Oxford Circus.

At the time smokers often lit cigarettes on their way out from the escalators. A public enquiry that heard 91 days of evidence concluded that a burning match which fell down the side of a staircase onto the escalator was to blame. The fire was not believed to have started deliberately.

Wooden escalators were phased out following the blaze and heat detectors and sprinklers were fitted.

Smoking was banned in all London Underground stations five days later. Victims were outraged that nobody was ever prosecuted after the public enquiry slammed the response of London Underground.

A documentary The King's Cross Fire: 6 hours That Shocked Britain will be on Channel 5 on Thursday November 16.

 

Source: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4912950/kings-cross-fire-london-november-18-1987/

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