Paris airport terminal facesdemolition after roof fall

24th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 24 (AFP) - A showcase new terminal at Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport may have to be demolished if investigations show that the fatal collapse of part of its roof was the result of a design fault, the head of France's airport authority warned Monday.

PARIS, May 24 (AFP) - A showcase new terminal at Paris's Charles De Gaulle airport may have to be demolished if investigations show that the fatal collapse of part of its roof was the result of a design fault, the head of France's airport authority warned Monday.

Four people were killed and three injured early Sunday when a 30-metre (98-ft) section of the departure area at the recently-opened Terminal 2E inexplicably gave way, crashing to the tarmac below in a vast mound of concrete, glass and steel.

"If all the ring sections which comprise the terminal prove to be unsound, then we will have to demolish it all, of course. We will take no risk when it comes to safety," Pierre Graff, president of Aeroports de Paris (ADP), told Le Parisien newspaper.

The EUR 750 million (USD 896 million) state-of-the-art terminal consists of two long tubular buildings connected by a central passageway. The collapse took place in the longer and outer of the two buildings, which contains access points to waiting aircraft.

After a judicial investigation opened Sunday into possible criminal liability, the technical enquiry will examine whether it was a conceptual flaw or shoddy workmanship that created one of of the worst calamities to hit a major French building project in recent years.

When it was opened in June 2003, Terminal 2E was described as an architectural gem, and it was a key part of plans to turn Charles De Gaulle into Europe's prime air hub.

Internationally-renowned architect Paul Andreu, 65, was rushing back from Beijing, where he has been working on a new national theatre, to help with the investigation. He told AFP he was "aghast" at what had happened. He said the design of the terminal was bold, but not revolutionary.

Trade unions warned a year ago that ADP and Air France - the terminal's main user - were rushing the completion of the building because of commercial concerns. The opening of the terminal had to be delayed for a week after it failed to pass a security check.

Left-wing newspapers Monday linked the disaster to proposals for the privatisation of ADP, due next year. They said the authorities were under constant pressure to cut costs, and that the large number of sub-contractors used - some 400 - would make it hard to trace responsibility for the accident.

"After Air France, ADP is en route to being privatised and the door is open to all sorts of sacrifices in terms of human and technogical investment. Was the opening of the 'terminal of death' brought forward for reasons of image?" said the Communist daily L'Humanite.

However Graff said that no concerns had ever been raised about the structure of the building, but only about aspects of the way it functioned.

The 65O-metre departure area was conceived as a single space uninterrupted by supporting structures so as to ease the movement of passengers, and this created major technical challenges for Andreu - who has designed all of the terminals at the 30-year-old Charles de Gaulle airport.

Based on ideas perfected in tunnel construction, the "tube" consists of a series of interlocking concrete rings, reinforced by steel on the outside and carbon fibre on the inside. The shell is perforated with holes for light and surrounded by a glass casing.

According to a release from the French Technology Press Bureau, one of the hardest tasks was to "make the frame and glass work together, by taking into account the expected movements in the concrete shell." The concrete could be expected to shift by as much as eight centimetres, the release said.

Monday morning about 50 rescue workers were still on the scene, sifting through the rubble, but there was little expectation of finding new bodies.

The death toll was revised down from five to four, after officials said one victim had been counted twice.

Among the dead were a Chinese woman and a Czech woman.

The terminal, which was relatively empty at the time of the accident because of the early hour, was handling six million passengers a year, with plans for expansion to 10 million by the end of this year.

Priority was given to Air France and its five partners in the SkyTeam airline alliance: AeroMexico, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta and Korean Air.

Airport authorities said flight disruption would be kept to a minimum with most planes diverted to other terminals.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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