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Power cables in DC subway system lacked proper insulation
WASHINGTON – Power cables next to the one that caught fire at a downtown Washington subway station on Monday were not equipped with insulating materials designed to prevent moisture and debris from causing corrosion that can lead to fires, a federal official said Friday.
Monday's fire led to an unprecedented daylong shutdown of the Metro system on Wednesday for safety inspections and repairs. Metro's general manager said the inspection revealed three locations where power cables were so badly damaged that it wasn't safe to run trains until they were fixed.
One of those places was the McPherson Square station, the closest station to the White House and the scene of Monday's fire, which occurred in the early morning before the system opened. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said the fire was similar to the one in January 2015 that caused a train to fill with smoke inside a downtown tunnel, killing one passenger and injuring dozens.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigator inspected the cables at a Metro facility after Monday's fire, according to the federal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn't authorized to speak publicly. It was clear to the investigator that the remaining three unburned cables from the tunnel lacked the insulating sleeves that are supposed to be affixed to either end of an L-shaped "boot" connecting the cables to their power supply, the official said. The burned cable was too badly damaged for the investigator to tell whether the insulating sleeves had been present, the official said.
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