St. Nazaire mourns QM II deaths

17th November 2003, Comments 0 comments

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France, Nov 17 (AFP) - The shipyards in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire shut down Monday as residents mourned 15 people killed at the weekend in an accident on the world's largest luxury liner Queen Mary II.

SAINT-NAZAIRE, France, Nov 17 (AFP) - The shipyards in the western French port of Saint-Nazaire shut down Monday as residents mourned 15 people killed at the weekend in an accident on the world's largest luxury liner Queen Mary II.

Church bells tolled at 10:00 am as the Atlantic coastal town observed a minute in silence to remember those killed when a walkway connecting the deck of the massive cruise ship to the quayside collapsed on Saturday.

Thousands gathered at the Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyards - many of them on an esplanade facing the Queen Mary II - to honour the dead, as the ship's foghorn sounded three times and sirens blared across the port.

Many mourners carried a single rose or a bouquet of flowers, which they left at a makeshift memorial under a bus shelter alongside wreaths presented by local officials. Dozens lined up to sign books of condolences.

"You know, everyone here has at one time or another climbed onto a gangway. I'm sure that no one ever thought that it could fall," said retiree Daniele Juvin, who said her father had worked at the shipyards for 43 years.

Saturday's accident - which also left 28 people injured, six of them in critical condition - occurred as loved ones of employees of shipbuilder Alstom were visiting the Queen Mary II, the largest passenger ship ever built.

The gangway gave way under the weight of some 40 people, sending them plummeting some 20 meters (66 feet) to the concrete of the dry dock below.

French President Jacques Chirac, accompanied by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre
Raffarin and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, visited the site on Sunday to offer condolences to families of the victims.

Prosecutors have opened a judicial investigation into "involuntary homicide and injuries", a standard legal move to determine whether the company that made and installed the gangway bears criminal liability.

The Queen Mary II had completed two series of offshore test runs and is to be delivered to the shipping line Cunard next month ahead of its maiden voyage from Southampton, southern England, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida on January 12.

Queen Elizabeth II is due to christen the ship on January 8 in Southampton.

The 150,000-tonne vessel - which is 345 meters (1,140 feet) long, 41 meters wide and stands as high as a 23-story building - will be able to accommodate some 2,600 passengers and 1,250 crew members.

The ship will include a 1,000-seat theater, a planetarium, a spa, a ballroom, five swimming pools, 2,000 bathrooms, 3,000 telephones, 4,500 steps and hundreds of works of art.

Alstom shares plunged 4.47 percent after markets opened Monday, with investors expressing fears following the deadly accident, the latest in a series of woes for the troubled French engineering giant.

AFP

Subject: French news









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