Official failings 'led to deaths in Schiphol fire'

21st September 2006, Comments 0 comments

21 September 2006, AMSTERDAM — There would have been fewer or no fatalities during the fire at the Schiphol detention centre if government officials had adhered to the rules, according to a damning report by the Dutch Safety Council.

21 September 2006

AMSTERDAM — There would have been fewer or no fatalities during the fire at the Schiphol detention centre if government officials had adhered to the rules, according to a damning report by the Dutch Safety Council.

Eleven detainees died of carbon monoxide poisoning in their cells while the other detainees in the K wing of the centre were brought to safety during the three-hour blaze on the night of 26 October.

The report presented on Thursday morning by Professor Pieter van Vollenhoven, brother-in-law to Queen Beatrix, was particularly harsh about the actions of Justice ministry officials.

The council said the prisons service, which falls under the Justice Ministry, was primarily responsible for fire safety. But it also said there were serious failings within the government building department and Haarlemmermeer Municipal Council.

The coalition cabinet was said to be in emergency session at midday on Thursday to discuss the implications of the findings. There is widespread speculation that Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner may resign.

But opposition MPs seemed anxious that Donner come to parliament first to give his reaction to the report.

The report also causes difficulties for Minister Sybilla Dekker (Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment — known as VROM) and to a lesser extent, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk.

A video reconstruction of the fire and the 11-month investigation was broadcast as part of the presentation of the report.

It clearly stated that the detention centre personnel were poorly trained to deal with a fire and did not, as Verdonk claimed, perform "adequately" to bring the detainees to safety. The aftercare for the survivors was also fraught with problems.

The Safety Council said Justice and VROM and the local council did too little about fire safety and had failed to implement construction and safety regulations prior to the fire.

The investigation found the cells were not sufficiently fire resistant and that the Fire Brigade got to the wing too late due to poor coordination and technical shortcomings at the centre's gates.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Dutch news

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