Home News Builders criticised againover Belgian gas blast

Builders criticised againover Belgian gas blast

Published on 06/08/2004

6 August 2004

BRUSSELS – Fluxys, the company managing Belgium’s underground gas network, has given its implicit backing to the theory that building work may have been responsible for last Friday’s explosion that killed 18 people.

Restrictions imposed on building contractors at the site in Ghislenghien were not respected, declared Griet Heyvaert, spokeswoman for Fluxys. 

Under the control of judicial experts and federal security services, Fluxys has been inspecting the section of the gaspipe that was recovered after it was catapulted into the air in the blast.

Heyvaert confirmed that damage found on the outside of the pipe could not have been caused by a normal spade.

She stressed that the company had visited the site on numerous occasions since the start of building work at a nearby factory.

Fluxys made the contractors aware of the location of the gas pipes and set out the firm constraints linked to the type of gas flowing there, she said.

She added that when companies were working one metre away from a gas pipe that the use of mechanical diggers was banned.

There are also legal requirements for gas companies to be informed when work is being carried out at least 15 metres away from the pipe.

The company is already making provisions for the replacement of the section blown away in the explosion, which will be filled with 60 metres of pipe.

Heyvaert nevertheless declined to say decisively who the company held responsible for the tragedy until the official enquiry is completed.

Earlier this week an un-named construction worker told La Derniere Heure newspaper that security regulations were ignored on a building site next to where the blast happened.

Other experts are meanwhile speculating that that the pipe that exploded could have been damaged by agricultural machinery.

Before being taken over by the diamond-cutting firm, Diamant Boart, the land where the explosion happened was owned by the Ideta association and rented out to local farmers.

Soil erosion, heavy rain and large machinery could explain why the pipe may not have been 1.2 metres below the earth as Fluxys constantly maintains.

The disaster has prompted serious questions about the safety of Belgium’s underground pipe network.

In 1989 a workman was killed and a farm worker and technician seriously injured when they were trying to put a drain in a field at Corroy-le-Chateau.

Their machinery punctured pipes transporting ethylene for the Solvay company.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news