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Better WTC stair design could have saved 900

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BETTER FIRE safety engineering could have saved 900 victims who died in the collapse of the north World Trade Center tower on 11 September 2001, a leading expert said last week.

University of Greenwich director of fire safety engineering professor Ed Galea said that if just one staircase had survived the impact of the Boeing 767, then 900 victims would have had time to escape before WTC1 collapsed.

Galea was outlining research carried out for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister at a 'Shaping the Future of Fire Safety' conference, held at the ICE last week (see ICE news).

The research will be incorporated into future building standards and will be made public within the next six months.

Galea's team has used interviews with 400 survivors of WTC1 to develop a computer model of the collapse.

WTC1 was hit at 8.46am between floors 94 and 98 by a plane travelling at 766km/h. The building collapsed one hour and 42 minutes later.

From the model they found that it took the 7,000 people who were situated below the impact floor 1hr and 31 minutes to evacuate, 11 minutes before the building collapsed.

At that rate, the 900 victims trapped above floor 98 could have escaped in those 11 minutes if an escape route could have been preserved.

'I am not saying that the building could have been designed to survive the impact of the plane, just that it could have been designed to keep one staircase open, ' he said.

Galea questioned the adequacy of having only three staircases in the building and locating them all in close proximity to each other. He also said that the predominantly plasterboard staircases should have been built out of a more robust material.

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