'Confusion' to blame for gas blast tragedy

7th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

7 February 2005, BRUSSELS – A television news programme has revealed there were one-and-a-half-hours of muddled phone calls and inquiries before last year's fatal explosion of a gas pipe at Ghislenghien in southern Belgium.

7 February 2005

BRUSSELS – A television news programme has revealed there were one-and-a-half-hours of muddled phone calls and inquiries before last year's fatal explosion of a gas pipe at Ghislenghien in southern Belgium.

Investigations have been under way since the disaster in July when 24 people were killed and about 100 injured.

On Sunday, the RTBF news investigation said gas was detected at the site as early as 7.30am. Phone calls between workmen and managers from the diamond-cutting factory Diamant Boart began.

However, workers were nevertheless still allowed to start their work at the company where construction work was under way.

The gas company Electrabel was notified of the gas leak 28 minutes later and sent a technician who later died in the gas blast.

At 8.10 am, the building site manager visited the leak and realised that it was from a large gas pipe that cut across the whole plot of land.

More confusion followed over which company owned the pipe, with gas provider Fluxys initially denying it had a pipe at Ghislenghien. At 8.33, still none of the managers or the firemen knew who was responsible for the pipe.

According to RTBF, Fluxys was told the gas was in Avenue des Artisans, a new street name, and firemen also had no records of pipes in the area on their map.

The companies and the Belgian authorities have all been criticised for not evacuating the site before the explosion. The RTBF report said the fire chief believed the pipe was from 100 to 300 metres from the nearest person.

At 8.56, the pipe line exploded, devastating an area of the town. The disaster was one of the worst industrial accidents ever witnessed in Belgium.

Griet Heyvaert, spokesman for Fluxys, told the news agency Belga: "We have always said there was confusion."

He said the company had always insisted there was an error in the marking of the pipe and confusion from a change to the map of the area.

"Our personnel at Brussels had to deal with some confusing elements, something which never prevented us, from the first calls, from sending one of our agents to the site," he said.

The Fluxys agent left his office to investigate the gas pipe at 8.15-8.20 and saw the explosion from the road.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news

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