Handling of Moerdijk chemical fire criticised

14th January 2011, Comments 0 comments


Local councillors have criticised the handling of communication around last week's fire at a chemical plant in Moerdijk near Rotterdam. During a meeting on Thursday evening, councillors pointed out that public confidence in the authorities had been seriously undermined. While the authorities issued standard statements like: "There is no risk to public health". Such claims were almost immediately dispelled by experts on television programmes saying it is better to not allow children to play outside.

In the past, health problems only emerged at a later date following disasters such as explosions at a firework depot in Enschede in 2000 and a plane crash into a block of flats in Amsterdam in 1992.

Many questions remain unanswered following last week's fire. Mayor of Moerdijk, Wim Denie, told the council there would be at least five investigations into the fire. These investigations will include a criminal investigation - as the Public Prosecution Office suspects licences may not have been in order. There will also be investigations into safety and the environment. The soot formed by the fire which spread across the region will be analysed. The ground at the plant will be decontaminated and there will be a simultaneous health study to make sure hazardous chemical substances are not being released into the environment during the work. A special team of civil servants will be taken on to deal with the aftermath of the disaster. Responsibility for such incidents lies with the local authorities in the Netherlands. The relatively small municipality of Moerdijk has been overwhelmed by the inicident.

Health Minister Edith Schippers and Interior Minister Ivo Opstelten have also been criticised in parliament for staying in the bus during a visit to the disaster area on Monday. MPs said this made it look like it was too dangerous for them to venture out of the vehicle to inspect the damage and talk to people clearing up after the fire.  



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