Mont Blanc tunnel 'risk of new tragedy'

29th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

CHAMONIX, France, March 27 (AFP) - Relatives of 39 people who died in a fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel five years ago called at a commemorative ceremony on Saturday for those responsible to be tried and punished.

CHAMONIX, France, March 27 (AFP) - Relatives of 39 people who died in a fire in the Mont Blanc tunnel five years ago called at a commemorative ceremony on Saturday for those responsible to be tried and punished.

"We want to hear of real punishment for what experts have said were real errors," said Andre Denis, president of the Association for the Victims of the Mont Blanc tunnel.

He accused the French government, the majority stake-holder in the 11.6-kilometre (seven-mile) tunnel linking France and Italy, of "laxism," and said:

"We no longer want to hear anything about inevitability....the tunnel has been restored in identical fashion and is operating again normally. A new tragedy could occur any day.

"But economic and financial necessity takes precedence over respect owed to the public..."

"We want to know the whole truth about the causes of this tragedy, we want to hear of the liability of those who failed in their duty," Denis urged, noting that long-awaited legal proceedings were scheduled to begin next January.

Last Wednesday demonstrators planted 39 crosses near the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel in a protest marking the fifth anniversary.

In the March 24, 1999 tragedy, a blaze broke out on a truck part-way through the tunnel and quickly turned into an inferno engulfing other vehicles.

The tunnel was entirely renovated with new safety features added, and the link - an important border throughpoint - was reopened to traffic in 2002.

© AFP

                                         Subject: French news

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