Frustrated commuters rescued by boat after hours on flooded GO Train
TORONTO – Almost 1,400 people were rescued by boat from a GO Train overnight after being stranded nearly seven hours in flood waters shortly after leaving Union Station Monday.
And late Tuesday afternoon, Minister of Transportation Glen Murray issued a video statement to those stuck on the train.
“To all of the folks who were on the Richmond Hill line, thank you so much for your kindness, your courage and your generosity,” Murray said.
But Murray did not apologize directly for a rescue that GO admits was “very slow.”
The train, located near Bayview Avenue and Pottery Road, was travelling north to Richmond Hill when it got stuck in high waters around 5:30 p.m.
One commuter, Hilette W., said in an interview with Global News last night that the train was in pitch black, there was no water, no air conditioning and some people were getting sick.
“People are crowding in certain areas because the water is rushing through it. People are getting sick,” she said.
Witnesses say the ankle-deep water was seeping into the train on the first level and passengers were told to move to the upper level.
“Everyone remained pretty calm for the most part, it’s just that the water was rising,” said passenger Jordan Warsh.
Watch: Raw video of people being rescued from the flooded GO Train.
The Greater Toronto Area received a record 126 millimetres of rain, setting an all-time one-day rainfall record.
Many highways and city streets in the city and surrounding communities were also flooded during the evening hours.
GO Transit officials say they had direct contact with passengers through customer service representatives who were on the train.
“Through the PA system we were able to make periodic announcements and being in direct contact with the customer service advisor, we were also able to provide them with information to help keep the customers calm and up to date on what was going on,” said Steve Harvey, manager of GO Transit safety during a press conference early Tuesday morning.
Emergency Crews were able to start rescuing stranded passengers using marina zodiacs around 9:30 p.m.. The whole operation ended just after 1 a.m.
“We wanted to make sure the water levels were high, and we wanted to make sure that we just didn’t have people step out on the ballast and fall right in and injure themselves,” said Harvey.
The rescue was “very slow, very tedious, but very safe,” he said. “And towards the end we were able to have the water recede enough that we were able to deploy the emergency steps.”
The process was frustrating for commuters, many of whom said they had to endure the stuffy train cabin air for hours.
“They started with two boats, and just six people on a boat and took 10 minutes to go there and back. It was pretty slow,” said passenger Adam Weitzman.
Transit officials say passengers who wish to get a refund on their route that day or report any sort of damages can call GO Transit’s customer service number at 416-869-3200.
“This was a fast incident, it was a flash flood, and it was a unique situation so we’ll try what we can do help our customers along the way,” Harvey said.
The train is still stuck there. Due to the severity of the flooding, GO Transit says, it’s not immediately known when it will be able to move again.
© 2013 Shaw Media