Home News Enschede offers help to gas blast victims

Enschede offers help to gas blast victims

Published on 02/08/2004

2 August 2004

AMSTERDAM — As the death toll from the Belgian gas tragedy rose to 17 on Sunday, the eastern Dutch city of Enschede — hit by a massive fireworks explosion in 2000 — offered its assistance to Belgian authorities in the aftercare of victims and in coming to terms with the disaster.

The enormous gas explosion on Friday had a similar effect to the Enschede fireworks explosion, which killed 22 people and left hundreds more injured on 13 May 2000. An entire residential neighbourhood was destroyed by the force of the blast.

“Due to the disaster, we gained a lot of experience with the aftercare of victims and surviving relatives and the coming to terms with traumatic experiences,” Alderman Andre le Loux said on Sunday.

The Enschede Executive Council — made up of the city’s mayor and aldermen and women — is expected to officially offer assistance to Belgian authorities on Tuesday, newspaper De Telegraaf reported.

“We had agreed very soon after the fireworks disaster to make our experiences available in times of large disasters domestically and internationally.”

The Enschede municipal authority also said it wanted to share its knowledge in the area of disaster response and prevention.

The explosion at an industrial park about 30km south-west of Brussels left up to 133 injured, 63 of whom were still in hospital on Sunday. Fifty people are being treated in burns units in Belgium and France. Three are still reported missing.

Flames were seen erupting into the sky soon after the explosion and a fire service spokesman at the scene near the town of Ath told BBC that the area around the blast looked like a war zone.

A mourning chapel has since been set up at a school in Ath and a large number of residents have signed the condolence register. The fire brigade barracks in Ath is a sea of flowers. Five firefighters were killed in the blast.

The explosion occurred as a leak in the pipeline carrying gas from the Belgian port of Zeebrugge to France was being inspected. Belgian media is now asking whether industrial terrains should be built above underground gas pipelines, Dutch public news service NOS reported.

The administrator of the Belgian gas network, Fluxys, said all safety precautions were taken and defended its decision for not immediately shutting down the gas supply while work was being conducted on the pipeline. Fluxys said restarting the supply is extremely complicated.

Meanwhile, victims of the Enschede fireworks explosion still report problems due to their traumatic experiences — and media images of the gas explosion in Belgium could bring back painful memories.

But health authority GGD Enschede said it had not received any telephone calls on Friday from people seeking assistance.

No victims and relatives of the Volendam News Year’s Eve tragedy asked for help from the ‘t Anker aftercare centre in Volendam either. Fourteen youths were killed in a café blaze on the night of 31 December 2000, but a ‘t Anker spokesman said it is perhaps too soon to report on reactions from Volendam victims.

The healthcare centre also said it was prepared to offer its assistance to Belgium. The spokesman said the small fishing village had been greatly assisted at the time of the café blaze by victims from other nations. The town would honour its responsibility if it could do the same for others, he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch + Belgian news