Netherlands: Dutch to hold enquiry into Saturday firework factory explosion that killed 20 : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

The authorities in the Dutch town of Enschede have promised a full independent investigation into Saturday's explosion at a fireworks' warehouse which killed at least 20 people.

Forensic teams are searching the ruins for more bodies and evidence of the causes of the fire.

Chief of police Aad Groos said arson had not been ruled out. Three businesses were burnt down in the northern area of Enschede in the previous weeks.

Firefighters were called to another arson attack in Enschede on Monday morning, but the fire was quickly extinguished.

The owners of the SE Fireworks warehouse - who went missing after the blast - have come forward and promised to co-operate with the investigation into the causes of the disaster.

-- Jim McAteer (, May 15, 2000




Explosion Baffles Dutch Officials

by ANTHONY DEUTSCH Associated Press Writer

ENSCHEDE, Netherlands (AP) -- Three days after an explosion at a fireworks warehouse engulfed an entire neighborhood in flames, city officials insisted Tuesday that only 20 people were killed, but struggled to explain why hundreds others remained missing.

The city's refusal to release the 200 names on the unaccounted-for list added to the mystery surrounding the blast and created anger among locals demanding an explanation why such a dangerous store of explosives was allowed in the heart of a residential area.

The S.E. Fireworks warehouse caught fire Saturday afternoon, unleashing at first a colorful display that drew curious onlookers, and then a firestorm from 100 tons of explosives that left several city blocks looking like a war zone. More than 600 people were injured.

The lingering mystery reminded many of the still unanswered questions from the last major calamity in the Netherlands -- the Oct. 4, 1992, crash of an El Al cargo jet into an Amsterdam apartment block.

Both disasters struck low-income neighborhoods inhabited by large immigrant communities.

After forensic teams recovered 16 bodies from a small part of the stricken neighborhood in Enschede, the city stuck to its estimate of 20 dead.

Officials played down the significance of the missing figure, which was largely based on municipal records. They noted that some people were listed several times or had their name written with three different spellings.

Some people who had been found ended up listed as ''missing'' later after being reported by someone else, officials said. Since the blast, 4,500 people have been on the list at some point.

Jan Geevan, the head of the team keeping track of the missing, said the figure has fluctuated vastly each day, making it a very unreliable measure of the final toll.

''It is changing all the time,'' he said. ''It is not more than an indication.''

However, officials refused to release the names on the list, saying it would cause undue alarm.

After the El Al crash, Amsterdam authorities found records of hundreds of people registered at addresses in the destroyed building. An amnesty offer for illegal aliens who lived there added hundreds more to their list.

While early death toll estimates in that crash topped 200, the final figure was 43.

Justice authorities announced they were launching a criminal probe into the Enschede firm, a major supplier of pyrotechnic displays for rock concerts and public events in Europe.

A former national ombudsman, Marten Oosting, was appointed to lead a commission investigating the causes of the explosion and measures to prevent a repeat in the future.

But city officials have admitted that in addition to underground bunkers, the firm had been licensed stored large quantities of fireworks in aboveground shipping containers.

A Berlin police inspector who visited the firm several months ago told German ZDF television he was shocked to find the doors of the containers open.

And Dutch television reported that the army official responsible for supervising safety measures at fireworks companies was suspended earlier this year after he was suspected of corruption.

-- Rachel Gibson (, May 16, 2000.

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