Chaotic evacuation after blast & heavy smoke in Washington, DC metro station

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Washington DC’s Tenleytown and Friendship Heights Metro stations were evacuated after reports that an explosion in a mechanical room had caused a fire and heavy smoke. Witnesses describe a chaos and poor communications by metro staff.

READ MORE: 154 people stuck on train in underwater tunnel to DC

People reported hearing blasts and seeing flames and smoke underground.

Social media messages described the panic on a smoke-filled Red Line train.

DC Fire and EMS have tweeted out that there had been no casualties, but there is still smoke between the Friendship Heights & Tenleytown/AU stations.

The incident was caused by “trouble inside a mechanical room,” DC Fire and EMS reported on its Twitter account.

According to the emergency response team, the heavy smoke is concentrated around an insulator that caught on fire at the platform.

RT America producer Shefali Kapadia got stuck at the Bethesda metro station because of the fire. She reported that crowds of people were rushing from the metro and across the street, trying to get to other means of transport, describing the situation as “unsafe all around.”

Kapadia tweeted that she was told “what do u expect? the system ain’t perfect!” by a DC metro employee.

Images taken on the outside of the station showed dozens of responding emergency vehicles with lights flashing. Witnesses spotted a stretcher being carried out. 

Local authorities blocked off the area between Albemarle Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

Most people that were being evacuated complained of the “incompetence” of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), stating that communications had been horrible. 

Bus shuttle service was provided to those evacuated, however people have complained of it being overcrowded.

Rail Transit OPS Group said that Shady Grove Train 107 was reversed back to Tenlytown-AU after reporting smoke inside its cars.

The group said three issues could be responsible: “arcing insulator causing smoke, train lost a collector shoe, and a leaking air compressor.”

Friendship Heights station was evacuated due to heavy smoke, according to the Rail Transit OPS Group’s Twitter account.

The incident happened on the Red Line, which is the oldest and busiest running under downtown Washington.

DC-area residents are not new to metro mayhem.

Many have experienced being stuck underground and resorted to social media to vent their vexation.

Just last week, 154 passengers were trapped underground after a train lost power in an underwater tunnel outside of Rosslyn Station.

Just a month prior, the entire Washington, DC Metrorail had to be shut down for 29 hours for an emergency inspection of electric cables in response to a fire that caused massive disruptions throughout the system. 

In addition, a woman died in the DC metro a year ago after smoke filled a subway car near the L’Enfant Plaza metro station.