Six lines of the Mexico City Metro remained out of service Monday morning after a fire broke out in the subway system’s downtown substation on Saturday, claiming the life of a female police officer.
A fire began at the Buen Tono substation in the Metro system headquarters in the capital’s historic center before 6:00 a.m and subsequently spread to other floors of the building. Lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the system were shut down as a result of the blaze, which was apparently caused by an oil spill.
The Mexico City government said that a policewoman died as the result of a fall from the subway building during the fire. She was identified as María Guadalupe Cornejo, a young mother of a 3-year-old child.
More than 30 people, including Metro workers and on-site police, were rescued from the building and transferred to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation. At least one firefighter who responded to the blaze also required medical treatment.
Smoke that billowed out of the Metro building on Saturday morning filled the sky above Mexico City’s downtown and was visible from various points across the capital.
The blaze was eventually brought under total control almost 12 hours after it started, although Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that it was 90% extinguished at about 9:00 a.m. Saturday.
The mayor and Metro director Florencia Serranía said at a press conference Sunday that work to restore service to lines 4, 5 and 6 would take 48 hours once it started. It was unclear how long it would take for services to be resumed on lines 1, 2 and 3, which are the oldest and busiest of the system. The newspaper Milenio reported that it could take up to three months to fully repair the damage caused by the fire.
Bus services are currently running along the routes of all six lines that were knocked offline. The other six lines of the Metro are operating normally.
A former director of the Metro who is now a Mexico City lawmaker said the substation where the fire occurred should have been modernized 20 years ago but was not.
“These installations should have been replaced 20 years ago [or] at least changed gradually [but] that wasn’t the case,” Jorge Gaviño, a deputy with the Democratic Revolution Party, said in a television interview.
“They’re old, obsolete systems that definitely have to be given adequate maintenance to avoid … risks to passengers.”
Gaviño said the Mexico City Congress will ask the Metro system’s management to supply the maintenance records of the substation so that they can be analyzed to determine why the fire broke out and how a similar event can be avoided in the future.
“We have to find out if … this regrettable accident was foreseeable or not,” he told Milenio Television.
One thing was made clear at Sunday’s press conference — the head of the Metro was not responsible. Serranía said “it’s necessary to reiterate that by statute maintenance programs are the responsibility of installations management …”
When a reporter asked if she was not responsible for that particular area and had no responsibility for the fire, Serranía said, “… I’m only the director general of the Metro.”
The federal Attorney General’s Office has launched investigations into the death of the police officer and the cause of the fire.
It is the first time that multiple lines of the Metro have been shut down for a prolonged period of time. About 5 million trips per day were taken on the system prior to the coronavirus pandemic but ridership declined significantly in 2020 and remained below normal levels when Saturday’s fire occurred. Still, more than 1 million passengers were affected by Saturday’s shutdown.
Line 1 of the Metro – one of the largest subway systems in the world – began operations in 1969 while lines 2 and 3 opened the following year. The system’s newest line – 12 – began operations in 2012 but was partially shut down from March 2014 to December 2015 due to structural problems.