Paris airport collapse was faulty design

15th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Feb 15 (AFP) - Design and structural faults were to blame for the fatal collapse of a terminal at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport last year, a French technical enquiry said in a report made public Tuesday.

PARIS, Feb 15 (AFP) - Design and structural faults were to blame for the fatal collapse of a terminal at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport last year, a French technical enquiry said in a report made public Tuesday.

The airport's newly-completed Terminal 2E was not designed to support the stress it was put under and the concrete used in its shell weakened to the point where it gave way, the report by leading French engineer Jean Berthier found.

"The shell was at death's door," Berthier said at a press conference to unveil the report at the transport ministry. "It held for a time, but its reserves of resistance were steadily worn away."

The enquiry did not apportion blame for the accident, but its results will be used by the magistrate who is to determine in the coming weeks which individuals or companies are to face legal proceedings.

Senior figures at the Paris airports authority ADP, the construction company Vinci and the consultancy Bureau Veritas which oversaw the project all could be placed under investigation for "involuntary homicide."

The internationally-renowned architect Paul Andreu, who designed the terminal, could also be named - though he strenuously denies that there was any fault in his plans.

Four people - a Lebanese woman, a Chinese couple and a Ukrainian woman - died last May when a 30-metre (33 foot) section of the roof of the EUR 750 million (USD 960 million) departure lounge collapsed. It had been open for less than a year.

Conceived as a 65O-metre tube with no internal supporting structures, Terminal 2E was built in a series of interlocking concrete rings. The curving roof was perforated with square spaces to let in the light and covered with a glass outer shell.

The Berthier report found that the concrete suffered from "insufficient or badly positioned reinforcement," and that there was a lack of "redundancy" - in other words the possibility of transferring stress to other parts of the structure.

It blamed the "feeble resistance of wall plates" - horizontal beams that support the walls - and said that metal struts pierced into the concrete roof in order to hold up the glass casing had weakened the structure.

However it did not find any problem with the quality of concrete used in the building - discounting the theory that suppliers had shortchanged on the order.

The trigger for the disaster could have been cold weather on the morning of May 23, or the "sudden weakening of a support" holding up the building at the base, the report found.

The report was highly critical of procedures for commissioning, completing and checking the construction - noting that unusually ADP acted both as contracting authority and project manager for the terminal. Andreu was at the time ADP's director of architecture.

"Technical controls should depend on models that are more independent of the enterprise," it said - pointing out that the calculations on which the design were based were only carried out a single time.

The report will have repercussions on the decision - also due in the coming weeks - on whether to repair or demolish the damaged terminal. Since the accident passengers at Terminal E have been transferred to a hastily-constructed new departure area.

"Every building can be saved. The real question is the price - if repair is more expensive than reconstruction," Berthier said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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