Errors 'increased death toll' in Schiphol fire

5th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

5 September 2006, AMSTERDAM — Numerous errors by central and local government officials led to a higher number of fatalities in the blaze at the detention centre at Schiphol Airport, according to accident investigators.

5 September 2006

AMSTERDAM — Numerous errors by central and local government officials led to a higher number of fatalities in the blaze at the detention centre at Schiphol Airport, according to accident investigators.

"There would have been fewer casualties if the construction process had been satisfactory," the Dutch Safety Board stated in a draft of its report.

The final version of the report into the fire is due to be published at the end of this month. Eleven detainees died and dozens were injured when a small fire in one of the cells spread to the rest of the wing last November.

News programme NOVA obtained a portion of the draft report. Unless the final version is radically different, it will be a damning assessment of the performance of various government departments.

The draft version has been circulating within these departments for several weeks and this has given rise to suggestions ministers hope to persuade the investigators to blunt the sharpest criticisms before publishing the final version.

NOVA reported that the Safety Board will accuse the ministries of Justice and Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM), and the local council of Haarlemmermeer of numerous mistakes before and during the fire. 

The ministries allegedly violated rules in the construction of the detention centre. The distance from the cells to the exit was greater than the regulations allowed and the smoke removal apparatus did not work. The cells were not sufficiently fire-resistant as the windows did not withstand the flames long enough.

Prison wardens made a serious mistake when they left open the door of the cell in which the fire began. "This is imaginable for a human point of view and moreover was to be expected in such difficult conditions and in the absence of sufficient instruction and training," the authors of the report said.

Justice officials were warned by a commission in 2003 that the building was not sufficiently fire-resistant but not enough was done to address this. The complex did not comply with the construction regulations and was improperly put into use.

The draft report accused officials in Haarlemmermeer, which includes Schiphol, of incorrectly issuing a building licence because too little information was provided to allow for an informed decision. The Fire Brigade did not have enough knowledge about the fire safety regulations at the detention centre and should not have issued a user's licence.

The government ministries and Haarlemmermeer declined to comment until the official report is published.

[Copyright Expatica News and ANP 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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