Paris terminal staff saw it shifting before collapse

26th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 26 (AFP) - The ultra-modern terminal building at France's Charles de Gaulle airport which partially collapsed at the weekend was showing signs of instability in the weeks leading up to the disaster, airport staff told Le Parisien newspaper Wednesday.

PARIS, May 26 (AFP) - The ultra-modern terminal building at France's Charles de Gaulle airport which partially collapsed at the weekend was showing signs of instability in the weeks leading up to the disaster, airport staff told Le Parisien newspaper Wednesday.

Cleaning workers said there were two major pipe-bursts in the same section of the departure area of Terminal 2E which gave way on Sunday, killing four people.

"Our main problem has been leaks. They have been everywhere for a year. Most of the toilets have had to shut for repair work," said a cleaner who wished to remain anonymous.

"But two months ago there were two enormous leaks in two transfer lounges just underneath the area that collapsed. We had to pump the whole day and part of the night. Since then there was a distinct impression that the building was shifting.

"There was more dust falling from the ceiling, particles of cement, more dirt. We pointed it out on several occasions," the cleaner said.

A union representative, who also refused to give his name, told the paper,
"Of course we had no idea what was going to happen, but we were indeed alerted to these cleaning problems -- dust and particles falling from the ceiling.

"With hindsight it's clear now that the building was moving over the last weeks," he said.

Terminal 2E was opened less than a year ago at a cost of EUR 750 million(USD 900 million), and was handling around 20,000 passengers a day. The departure area consists of a 650-metre tubular building, a 30-metre section of which fell away in Sunday's collapse.

The authorities have said the whole building may have to be demolished if investigations show that a design fault was the origin of the disaster.

The terminal's designer Paul Andreu, an internationally-acclaimed architect who has created more than 50 airports around the world and is currently working on the new national theatre in Beijing, said that he was deeply saddened by the deaths of four people.

"I don't think I'm at fault, I don't think I made any mistakes," Andreu said on national television Tuesday. "There are many checks on a building of this type ... if there had been any mistakes it wasn't because of carelessness."

Andreu, 65, flew back from Beijing Tuesday and was immediately taken to inspect the damage.

The terminal remained off-limits to all but a handful of engineers and judicial experts Wednesday. On Monday new fissures and cracking noises were observed in an area symmetrically opposite the part that collapsed, prompting the evacuation of all other workers.

Speculation is rife over the origin of the accident, with faulty materials or poor workmanship vying with a possible design flaw as the main theories.

Airport officials have confirmed that cracks appeared during an early stage of construction in pillars holding up the concrete structure, which then had to be strengthened with carbon fibre. But they said this was in a separate area of the terminal.

It has also emerged that early 2003 - shortly before the building's completion - 300 metal beams were added to increase stability.

Transport Minister Gilles de Robien said that he wants an interim report on the accident to be ready next month. A judicial enquiry into "involuntary homicide" will determine if there is any criminal liability.

Meanwhile justice officials said that one of the four dead may never be identified because she was travelling under a stolen Czech passport.

"We can assume she was Ukrainian because the plane ticket was bought in Kiev. But if this person was travelling in a clandestine manner, then we may never find out her nationality," an official said.

The woman was on a stop-off in Paris from Kiev en route for Miami. She was initially thought to be the 39 year-old Czech nurse whose name appeared on the passport, but the real Martina Mala was found to be alive and well in Prague.

Her passport had been stolen in January 2003.

© AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article