Decade-old fireworks disaster sparks discussion

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A fire disaster in the Dutch city of Enschede in 2000 which killed 23 people and destroyed an entire neighbourhood may have been caused by burglars. Up to a thousand people were injured, and hundreds of families lost their homes. A private investigator told reporters on Tuesday that the massive explosion of a fireworks depot in the area could have been triggered by a fire which began during a break-in.

Speaking at a meeting of survivors, researcher Bas van den Heuvel said that the police investigation into the causes had failed to follow up traces of burglary. Police evidence which was presented in 2005 and 2006 mentioned damage to one of the fireworks containers on the premises. Mr Van den Heuvel said this proves that unauthorised individuals had attempted to steal the highly combustible material from the safe storage. The thieves' incompetence then may have caused the initial fire.

The investigator's theory contradicts reports by regional broadcaster RTV Oost, which reported in May on witness accounts pointing to a work-related accident as the cause of the massive explosions and subsequent firestorm.

After the Monday evening meeting with researcher Van den Heuvel, survivors of the disaster lodged a complaint against RTV Oost for disseminating misleading information, for careless journalism and serving private interests. They asked the independent Journalism Council to investigate the complaints.

RTV Oost said it was surprised by the complaint, pointing out that the May broadcasts even led to new information about the disaster, which was taken into consideration by the Public Prosecutor's office.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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