Expatica news

Enschede remembers deadly fireworks disaster

13 May 2004

AMSTERDAM — The eastern Dutch city Enschede held a special ceremony Thursday to commemorate the catastrophe four years ago to the day when a blast at a fireworks storage facility killed 22 people and destroyed an entire neighbourhood.

At 3pm, Mayor Jan Mann led a silent procession through the Roombeek district which was devastated by the blast at S. E. Fireworks on 13 May 2000.

More than 500 houses were destroyed and many other buildings were left without a roof by the massive chain of explosions. About 1,000 people were injured.

The theme of this year’s commemoration was “home coming”. All church bells in the city rang for five minutes and then Mayor Mans read a poem “Enschede huilt” (Enschede cries), which was written by Willem Wilmink.

Several children also read their poems, which were inspired by the disaster. The procession ended on the Stroinksbleekweg, where children’s artwork is on display.

Later in the evening, an ecumenical service will be held at the Mariakerk and there will be choral singing at the city’s music centre.

The cause of the blast remains unclear. Earlier this month, a court awarded EUR 125,000 to local man Andre de Vries, who was falsely convicted and jailed for allegedly lighting a fire that ignited the fireworks.

De Vries, 36, was sentenced to 15 years jail by Almelo Court in September 2002 after being convicted of arson at the S.E. Fireworks depot. De Vries always maintained his innocence.

Arnhem Appeals Court overturned the conviction in May 2003 due to a lack of evidence.

The court ruled that De Vries was partly to blame for the extended period he remained in remand custody. It found that the former Enschede resident had worked against the investigation and gave demonstrable false statements.

Police officers involved in the investigation have rejected suggestions they inflated the evidence to pin the blame unfairly on De Vries.

There do not appear to be any other suspects in the case and the prosecution has said it will not appeal the court ruling awarding damages to De Vries.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + Enschede fireworks disaster