Paris terminal architect visits death scene

26th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 25 (AFP) - The renowned French architect who designed the showcase terminal at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, which partly collapsed at the weekend, on Tuesday visited the site of the deadly disaster.

PARIS, May 25 (AFP) - The renowned French architect who designed the showcase terminal at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, which partly collapsed at the weekend, on Tuesday visited the site of the deadly disaster.

Paul Andreu, 65, stepped off a plane from Beijing where he has been supervising construction of the National Grand Theatre in Tiananmen Square, and went straight to a meeting with engineers in the departure area of terminal 2E.

"I don't think I'm at fault, I don't think I made any mistakes," Andreu said later in an interview on France's private television TF1.

"There are many checks on a building of this type ... if there had been any mistakes it wasn't because of carelessness," he said.

Andreu said he was "infinitely sad over the death of four people" when a 30-metre (-yard) section of the ultra-modern tubular building collapsed to the ground after the concrete vault gave way.

Airport director Rene Brun said that unaffected parts of Terminal 2E like the check-in area could be opened "in a matter of weeks" if substitutes for the departure area can be found. But he said the departure area itself could open again in "several months, perhaps even more than a year."

However no re-opening will be permitted till the results of the technical enquiry is known, and the airport authority ADP has said the entire EUR 750 million (USD 900 million) edifice will be demolished if a design flaw is shown to have caused the accident.

On Monday there was a further scare when workers detected new fissures and cracking noises in the structure, and the terminal was evacuated. Only investigators working for the judicial and technical enquiries have since been allowed at the scene.

The airport's operations director Hubert Fontanel said that temporary supports will be installed in the section of the terminal where the latest damage appeared. "It is important for the investigation to keep the structure in its actual state," he said.

The affected section is symmetrically opposite the part that was destroyed in Sunday's collapse. Both areas differ from the rest of the structure in containing access points to three boarding walkways, and there was speculation this may have been a factor in the disaster.

Meanwhile ADP officials confirmed reports that cracks several millimetres long had appeared during the early stages of construction on a number of the concrete pillars that are used to hold up the 650-metre tunnel-like departure area.

Engineers reinforced the existing pillars with carbon fibre, and a different technique was subsequently used for putting in place the remaining ones. Fontanel said the problem had appeared in a different section of the terminal from Sunday's collapse, and there was no evidence there was a link.

Investigators are likely to focus on a possible design fault, or on poor workmanship and the use of sub-standard materials. They will have access to reams of studies, technical calculations and tests, as well as to contracts with the some 400 companies that carried out the work.

France's junior transport minister said it was unclear what caused the roof to collapse.

"What we do know is that there is no obvious cause," Francois Goulard told French radio.

A leading French architect said there was a growing culture of "speed and performance" in the allocation of prestige building projects, and warned against the pressure to use cutting edge techniques that had yet to be proved.

"The (terminal) was like a performance, at the very outer limit of the material. Everything was calculated and taken into account. But in this outer limit all you need is a piece of metal in the wrong place or a bad lot of concrete - no-one can protect himself against that," said Paul Chemetov.

The fourth victim of the roof collapse at the weekend in the ultra-modern new air terminal at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport was a Lebanese national, a source close to the investigation said Tuesday.

In addition to the 28-year-old Lebanese, the three other victims have been identifed as a 39-year-old Czech woman and two Chinese nationals, a man and woman both age 32.


Subject: French news

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