French State Railway Causes Panic With Web Blunder Over ‘Disaster’

French ‘rail disaster’ was part of training exercise
French 'rail disaster' was part of training exercisefrom times online: People logging on to the website of the SNCF, the French state railway, got a shock this morning [mar17]. It announced that an explosion had torn through a high-speed express in Burgundy, killing more than 100 people and injuring nearly 400.

For more than 40 minutes, panicked members of the public called the disaster helpline that accompanied the announcement and word of the catastrophe flashed around Twitter and other social networks. Then the SNCF realised that an internal disaster exercise had reached the public site.

Embarrassed managers were at a loss to explain how the drill in public information had gone live. “We often carry out crisis exercises and send information messages to the public and press communiqués,” a spokeswoman said. “There was an error today which meant that the message ended up on”

The announcement, which appeared at 11am, said that normal service on the site had been interrupted because of a dramatic event.

An explosion of unknown origin occurred today at about 8am on TGV [high-speed train] 1234 near Macon,” it said. “The first estimates from the emergency services report 102 deaths and 380 injured. All victims have been evacuated to hospitals at Mâcon… The emergency services are still on the scene, along with an emergency medical-psychological unit. Rail traffic has been halted in the region.”

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