Ghislenghien trial in Belgium postponed

26th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

A major trial began Monday morning over a gas explosion in which 24 people died and 132 were injured.

In the Walloon city of Tournai a major trial began Monday morning over a gas explosion in Ghislengien (province of Hainault) five years ago in which 24 people died and 132 were injured. Immediately after the start of the trial it was suspended until 15 June.

The explosion in Ghislenghien, near Ath, took place on 30 July 2004. More than a month before the explosion, on 24 June, a power shovel struck an underground gas pipe while digging at a construction site in Ghislengien. The damage was reported but there was no follow up at the time.

On the day of the explosion, 30 July 2004, at 6.30am, Fluxys, the gas company managing the gas pipeline in Ghislenghien, was adverted to the fact that there was a gas leak. It was not until 8.15 that the emergency services were alerted.

The police and fire department arrived at 8.30. At that moment there was complete chaos at the building site. An organised quick evacuation from the site was impossible.

The gas company had shut the gas flow off completely but too much gas had already escaped and a major explosion occurred at 8.55.

The explosion resulted in a huge jet of flames and the vibration was felt in a radius of 10 kilometres.

The fireball burned everything and everyone in its path. 24 people were killed, including 5 firemen. 132 people sustained terrible burn injuries.

The trial is expected to last some six months. 14 people stand accused, including the project contractor, the architect and the safety coordinator of the construction site and people from the gas company Fluxys.

The trial started today but was immediately suspended until 15 June to give some of the defendants more time to study the charges against them and to prepare their defence.
The gas explosion in Ghislengien is Belgium's biggest industrial disaster since the mining disaster in Marcinelle in 1956 in which 262 were killed.

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