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Fatal gas blast in south Belgium

Published on 30/07/2004

30 July 2004

BRUSSELS – Fifteen people have been killed and scores injured following the explosion of a high pressure gas pipeline in southern Belgium on Friday.

The blast happened at around 9.00 a.m. on an industrial estate near the town of Ath.

Belgian Defence Minister Andre Flahaut said 15 people had died in the blast and a further 112 injured.

Flahaut added that the explosion was, “probably an accident.”

Previous reports had put the death toll from the blast at 14 then 10.

Earlier, health ministry spokesman, Karim Ibourki, explained how the blast happened.

He said that a gas leak had been detected at 8.30 a.m. and that “when emergency services arrived, there was an explosion.”

He said a service station also blew up.

Local officials said the blast was so powerful that some of the victims were, “thrown hundreds of metres” through the air.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt cut short a holiday in Italy to visit the scene of the disaster.

His government colleagues Flahaut and Interior Minister Patrick Dewael both rushed to the site on Friday.

Belgian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Berangere Dubois said that the blast happened when “a high pressure pipeline blew up” at the industrial estate in Ghislengen, just outside of Ath.

French emergency workers helped their Belgian collegues at the site on Friday and many victims were taken to hospitals either in the nearby French city of Lille or to Paris.

There is currently no indication that the explosion was caused deliberately.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news