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Fires and explosions
Fires and explosions
13 May 2000 – Enschede, The Netherlands
At least 20 people were killed and many injured when an explosion and fireball tore through a fireworks warehouse in the eastern Dutch town of Enschede today. "There are 20 persons confirmed dead … including one fire-fighter, and some other fire-fighters are still missing," Dutch Domestic Affairs Ministry spokeswoman Anette Dijkstra said. Dutch television said at least 175 people were injured in the disaster, in which a fireball and blast shattered a residential area of the town of 145,000 people. Television reports said the Enschede hospital was crammed with injured, and other blast victims had been ferried to hospitals in other centres. Television film showed streets of gutted and burning houses in the residential area around the warehouse. Roofs were torn off and walls blasted and blackened. Burned out vehicles lined the streets. People covered in blood were shown sitting in the streets. Enschede Mayor Jans Mans told Germany's ZDF television network that the fires were under control by mid-evening. "We have the situation more or less under control now," he said. Dijkstra said the disaster had started as a small fire which spread to a storage area at the fireworks firm, identified by Dutch media as the SE Fireworks company. Dutch television said about 100 tonnes of fireworks had been stored there. A ZDF reporter said from the town that the explosion was the third fire in Enschede in the last four days and that officials suspected arson. Fire-crews, ambulances and emergency helicopters were called in from around The Netherlands and from Germany. Police cordoned off streets and an area of about 500 sq. m appeared to have been virtually flattened. The blast, which was heard in nearby towns, gouged huge gashes in apartment buildings and shattered windows. Slabs of concrete blocked roads. A Grolsch brewery was set ablaze by the explosion.
14 May 2000 – At least 20 people were killed and 230 injured when a blast at a fireworks warehouse devastated a residential area of the eastern Dutch town of Enschede, officials said early today. Firemen still battled blazes after midnight, but Mayor Jan Mans said the situation was under control. A huge searing-red fireball sent a blast wave across the town at mid-afternoon yesterday, knocking down homes and leaving vehicles ablaze along cobbled streets. Town spokesman Martijn Wiodboer said the fire began outside a warehouse owned by SE Fireworks company and spread to the storage area which held an estimated 100 tonnes of fireworks. He said many of the casualties were among people who gathered on nearby streets unaware of the threat the initial fire posed to the neighbourhood. The mayor said at least 20 people, including two firemen, had died, and two firemen were missing. Of the 230 wounded, 42 remained in hospitals, of whom ten were in intensive care. About 2,000 people were also evacuated from the area. Fire-crews, ambulances and helicopters sped to the town from around The Netherlands and across the border from Germany 5km (three miles) away. Wiodboer said the fire and subsequent explosions did not appear to be linked to other recent blazes in Enschede which officials suspected might have been caused by arson. The area around the fireworks warehouse looked like a heavily bombed war zone. Amateur film showed a bright red-orange glow as the warehouse erupted with fireworks shooting through the afternoon sky. Suddenly the sky turned red as a fireball soared over the rooftops. The blast, which was heard in nearby towns, also gouged huge gashes in apartment buildings and shattered windows. Slabs of concrete blocked roads. A Grolsch brewery was set ablaze by the explosion. A Dutch public prosecutor said the warehouse had been inspected only a few months ago and was thought to have operated in line with its permits. It was still to early to blame anybody for what had happened, he said.
14 May 2000 – Rescuers gave up searching a devastated area of Enschede for survivors today, at least 20 people are dead and 541 injured. "If there's anyone in there now, they would be dead," Menno Wagnaar, a police officer in Enschede, said. Teams of special investigators sought clues as to what triggered the huge detonation, examining blackened, twisted hulks of cars and shells of houses, sifting through rubble with their bare hands as fire-fighters extinguished persistent flames. There are a lot of areas that are still so hot that they cannot enter. Police said the death toll was expected to be at least 20, but only 13 bodies had been found. Four of those were fire-fighters, two of whom had been missing since yesterday evening. About 62 people remained in regional hospitals, and 11 of those were in intensive care.
14 May 2000 – Rescuers gave up searching a devastated area of a Dutch city for survivors today after a massive explosion at a fireworks warehouse that killed at least 20 people and injured 562. "If there's anyone in there now, they would be dead," said Menno Wagnaar, a police officer in Enschede. "Last evening at 22.00 we found someone, but that was the last one," Police Chief Aart Meijboom told a news conference. Officials said 14 bodies had been recovered and six people were still unaccounted for. Police said they expected the death toll to be at least 20. Four of the dead were fire-fighters. About 59 people remained in regional hospitals, ten in intensive care. Around 400 residents of the area had yet to be located. While authorities hoped they were staying with friends or relatives, they appealed for them to come forward and register. City authorities said they still feared for the safety of several thousand people evacuated from the disaster area and were keeping the most severely affected areas cordoned off. Asbestos from the roof of a Grolsch brewery set ablaze next to the fireworks warehouse might be contaminating the area and some roofs of homes were in danger of collapsing, Mayor Ian Mans said. Officials were advising people living in cities north of Enschede, where smoke from the smouldering beer factory was headed, to take precautions against asbestos poisoning by washing clothes carefully and cleaning away dust. However the spread of pollution was not as wide as originally feared, and many of those evacuated from the outer areas may be able to return to their homes as early as this evening, city authorities said. A huge red fireball sent a blast wave across the city of yesterday afternoon, completely destroying around 400 homes and damaging several hundred more. It was the second of two explosions. A small earlier blast set off hundreds of fireworks and drew people out of their homes to watch them shooting through the sky. After the second blast, people covered in blood sat dazed in the streets. Some 800 people slept overnight in a temporary shelters, but officials said many people were being shifted to other facilities or homes.
15 May 2000 – Dutch rescue workers and forensic experts today resumed their search for the remains of bodies from a weekend (May 3-14) fireworks explosion which killed at least 20 people and injured 600. "The rescue workers resumed their search at first light," Enschede Mayor Jan Mans told a news conference. A total of 15 corpses have been uncovered in the still-smoking, ash-covered wreckage of houses and cars but police expect the toll to be at least 20. Unfortunately 12 of the 15 bodies still have to be identified, and that says a lot about the state they're in," said Erik Helder, one of the deputy mayors of Enschede, a town of 145,000 in the astern Netherlands near the German border. Helder said identification could take several more days. "We have to reckon with the fact that more dead people will be found," he said yesterday. Around 2,000 evacuees were forced to spend second night in temporary accommodation, some staying with friends or relatives, others put up in a local sports hall or university lodgings. Mans said it was still too early to say when some if the residents could go back home. Clear-up and repair crews were still sifting through the damage. A residential area of the town was devastated when an estimated 100 tons of fireworks exploded in a warehouse on Saturday afternoon. Around 400 houses were destroyed and hundreds more damaged by a fireball and blast. The owners of the warehouse, identified only as R. Bakker and W. Pater, have contacted the city and said they would be available for investigation into the cause of the disaster, Helder said. An initial explosion which set off hundreds of fireworks had drawn a crowd of people to watch. A second blast caused the destruction, flattening buildings and leaving torn and bleeding people lying on the streets. Around 39 people remained in regional hospitals, six in intensive care. Some 200 residents of the area had yet to be located. Authorities hoped they were staying with friends or relatives and appealed for them to come forward and register. Prime Minister Wim Kok pledged virtually unlimited government resources to help rebuild the shattered town. A bank in Enschede opened its doors, offering victims left only with the clothes they were wearing an emergency guilders 100 ($41) per person. The Dutch Association of Insurers set up a telephone helpline to advise victims on claims. A national appeal, co-ordinated by the Dutch Red Cross, starts today.
16 May 2000 – Three days after a week- end fireworks explosion which ripped through the Dutch border town of Enschede killing at least 20 people and injuring more than 600, speculation is mounting about the cause. Enschede authorities have stressed that SE Fireworks, owner of the warehouse which exploded with devastating effect. had all the necessary permits to store the estimated l00 tonnes of fireworks, believed to be for professional displays. The depot, which got its licence in 1977, was inspected less than a week ago, and passed with flying colours. But obviously something went wrong. "I'm not trying to give the impression that nothing is the matter, because there was a major disaster, but I'm saying that all the rules and regulations were followed," Deputy Mayor Erik Helder said. The authorities announced today they were setting up a commission to investigate the possible causes and make recommendations to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. On top of that, the regional public prosecutor's office said today it was launching two criminal investigations, one into whether regulations on fireworks storage were broken and another into possible arson. The owners of the company, identified only as R. Bakker and W. Pater, have said they will make themselves available for any probe.
16 May 2000 – Hundreds of people are still unaccounted for after a devastating fireworks explosion at the weekend (May 13-14), Dutch officials said today. Public prosecutors announced two criminal investigations into Saturday's blast – one into whether regulations on storing fireworks were broken and another into possible arson. A leading re-insurer, Germany's Cologne Re, said the industry may have to pay out some guilders 500 million ($205.3 million) to rebuild hundreds of homes, cover medical costs and repair damages to the local Grolsch brewery. Authorities stuck to a likely death toll of 20 from the blast which ripped through the town. They were reluctant to put a precise number on how many were unaccounted for, but said it appeared to be between 200 and 300. Officials had earlier emphasised that the missing people could be staying with friends or relatives and urged them to come forward. So far 16 corpses have been found, victims of the explosion which sent a fireball through Enschede, destroying 400 homes and damaging about 1,000 more. Special teams worked through the night to try to find more bodies as well as clues to what could have triggered the explosion, which injured 644 people, 39 are still in hospital, five in intensive care. The search for victims is likely to go on for several more days, possibly until the weekend, Deputy Mayor Erik Helder said. About 30 detectives and town hall workers were making thorough checks with local banks and housing organisations to prune the missing list for double or triple counting, while also removing people who had previously been reported missing but had now been accounted for. City officials announced that former national ombudsman Marten Oosting would head a commission investigating the blast – its causes and how a similar catastrophe could be prevented in future. The owners of the firework company, R. Bakker and W. Pater, have said they will assist any probe. The Defence Ministry said it had discovered, after going through documents linked to the firm, SE Fireworks, that the head adviser in the ministry who recommended licencing conditions had been sacked late last year for possible conflict of interest. Enschede authorities had earlier stressed that SE Fireworks had all the necessary permits to store the estimated 100 tonnes of fireworks. The depot, which got its licence in 1977, had been inspected less than a week ago. Officials have said little about what could have caused the explosion and have been guarded in their response to theories blaming arson, stored magnesium, an open fireworks container or open door. Authorities said it was possible containers of fireworks could have been left open inside the warehouse. Fire brigade officials raised the possibility that magnesium – which would react violently when doused with water – had been illegally housed in the depot, unbeknown to fire-fighters.
17 May 2000 – The number of people injured in Saturday's (May 13) Dutch fireworks explosion jumped to nearly 950 today as general practitioners' figures added 300 to the figure previously reported. Forty people are still in hospital, five of them in intensive care after the devastating warehouse blast which is so far known to have killed 16. Officials said they still believed the final death toll would be 20. Between 200 and 300 people remain unaccounted for.
18 May 2000 – The number of people still missing after a huge explosion at a Dutch fireworks warehouse at the weekend was cut to about 40 today. The number has fallen steadily from several hundred and is expected to decline further as more people unaccounted for come forward. Officials have put the number of dead at 20 and injured at nearly 950 from the blast in the town of Enschede. So far, 18 bodies have been found. No cause has so far been found for the blast. A section of the residential area surrounding the warehouse remains sealed off, although many of the inhabitants outside that area have returned to their homes.
19 May 2000 – Dutch authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the owners of a fireworks factory in the town of Enschede which exploded killing 20 people. The Justice Department has issued a national and international warrant for the owners of SE Fireworks, R. Bakker and W. Pater, on suspicion of breaking safety rules. "We are still looking for them, we don't know where they are," a department spokesman told Dutch television. Two criminal investigations have been launched into Saturday's (May 13) blast – one into whether regulations on storing fireworks had been broken and another into possible arson. The blast from the factory has left almost 950 injured and destroyed 400 homes. City authorities said SE Fireworks had all the necessary permits to store the estimated 100 tonnes of fireworks which exploded, and Bakker and Pater said soon after the disaster that they would assist any investigation. The depot had been inspected less than a week before the blast. Officials have said little about what could have caused the disaster. Authorities yesterday cut the number of people still unaccounted for after the explosion to 15 as more of the missing came forward. They did not expect the death toll to rise above 20. A total of 18 bodies have been recovered and identified so far. A section of the residential area surrounding the warehouse remains sealed off, although many of the inhabitants outside that area have returned to their homes.
22 May 2000 – A 79-year-old woman died yesterday from injuries suffered when a Dutch fireworks warehouse exploded over a week ago, flattening a working-class neighbourhood in The Netherlands. The woman lived just a street away from the depot where 100 tons of fireworks caught fire last Saturday (May 13), spokesman Paul Boers said. Recovery teams have identified the remains of 16 bodies found under the rubble of Enschede, 85 miles east of Amsterdam. Five people are still missing – three woman and two men – and the official death toll remained at 20. The owners of entertainment company SE Fireworks were questioned by investigators over the weekend after they surrendered to local police in response to an international warrant for their arrest. Ruud Bakker and Wilhelm Pater are suspected of knowingly breaking regulations and could be sentenced to six years in prison, an official said. They have not been charged with murder. Almost 1,000 people were injured when a number of fires on the downtown SE Fireworks site set off a series of powerful explosions, destroying 500 houses.
18 June 2000 – Sichuan Province, China
Leaking gas and an explosion in a coal mine in south-west China's Sichuan province killed 12 miners, a state-run newspaper said today. Seven of the miners were killed in the explosion on Friday evening (June 16) in the mine in Sichuan's Mianzhu city. Another five people who entered the mine to rescue them were killed by gas fumes.
23 June 2000 – Childers, Queensland, Australia
A total of 15 people were killed and three were missing after an overnight fire at a backpackers hostel in the Queensland town of Childers, about 300km north of Brisbane, the town's mayor said today. "Police have confirmed 15 of the 18 unaccounted people are dead," Childers Mayor Bill Trevor said. "Fire officers are still trying to get access to parts of the building, hampered by the lack of flooring, and hope to complete the search by lunchtime, but it is not looking good." He said 62 people had survived the fire at the hostel where backpackers from the UK, Japan, Korea, Canada, and New Zealand were staying. Many of them were working as fruit pickers at nearby farms.
30 June 2000 – Waihai Town, China
An explosion at a fireworks factory in southern China killed 29 people and injured more than 200 today, the official Xinhua news agency reported. The blast in Waihai Town, part of the city of Jiangmen, occurred at 08.00 and levelled a two-storey building covering an area of 3,000m2 Cantagalo, Xinhua said. Dozens of people were trapped under the rubble, Hong Kong's Cable TV reported. It said the blast shattered windows in Jiangmen, located in Guangdong province near the border with Hong Kong and about 60km south of the provincial capital of Guangzhou. Guangdong officials had rushed to the scene to oversee the rescue operations, Xinhua said. The cause of the explosion was not yet know, it said. Xinhua said the factory was Hong Kong-funded, but did not identify the owner.
11 July 2000 – Adeje, Nigeria
An oil products pipeline exploded in southern Nigeria, killing about 250 villagers scooping up gasoline with buckets, witnesses said today. Police sealed off the scene of yesterday's explosion at Adeje village, outside the Niger Delta oil city of Warri and close to Jesse town where about 1,000 people died in a similar disaster in 1998. "I saw no less than 50 burned bodies on the ground," said a Reuters journalist who ventured close to the scene before police turned reporters away. Villagers said the pipeline carrying refined petroleum products from Warri to northern Nigeria, was punctured by petrol thieves on Sunday night. Nigeria's network of more than 5,000km of pipelines criss-crossing the oil-producing country has become a favourite target of local communities cashing in on a thriving black market for refined products.
12 July 2000 – At least 100 people were killed, 100 more were reported missing and 100 others suffered serious injuries, in a gasoline pipeline explosion near Adeje village, in southern Nigeria. Authorities said the blast occurred during the morning of July 10, at a punctured pipeline. Thieves trying to steal petroleum apparently broke into the line on July 8. At least 100 charred bodies lay in the debris. Authorities fear the death toll will reach at least 200. The blast covered an area of about 2km (about 1.25 miles). Smoke and flames billowed from the site yesterday. State petroleum company workers and fire-fighters worked to extinguish the fire. An Information Ministry statement, issued late July 10, states that several lives were lost and a vital petroleum products pipeline was destroyed.
12 July 2000 – More than 200 people are now known to be dead or missing as a result of the oil pipeline fire in Nigeria on Monday. Many more people have suffered serious injuries, according to reports from the area. "An exact toll is unlikely to be clear for some time but we know more than 250 people died," a senior police officer here said early today. Fire-fighters and oil company employees were reported to be extinguishing the remaining isolated fires this morning. Red Cross workers have begun burying the dead, most of them in mass graves, to try to avoid the spread of disease. Many local villagers were in the area collecting gasoline in buckets and jerry cans when the pipeline exploded. National newspapers today reported up to 250 people killed and many more injured or missing. They also reported that up to 2km of rubber plantation and farmland had been burned.
13 July 2000 – Firemen are still working at the scene of Monday's pipeline fire in southern Nigeria. They are spraying condensed foam at the length of pipeline which was ruptured by vandals hoping to sell petrol on the black market. More than 250 people are feared to have died in Monday's fire, which was the latest in a series of such incidents in the southern Niger Delta.
Large areas of farmland lay scorched near Adeje today after an explosion and fire in an oil pipeline killed 250 people. Many of the victims were engulfed by flames on Monday as they scooped up gasoline from the ruptured pipeline at Adeje, north of Warri. Governor James lbori of oil-producing Delta State alleged a "products cartel" was behind the recurring vandalism of pipelines and called on the Central Government to investigate. A source who visited the scene today saw about 400 acres of farmland destroyed. The fire still burned, although with less intensity. The cause of the blaze was still unclear but villagers said the pipeline carrying refined petroleum products from Warri to northern Nigeria was punctured by thieves on Sunday night. Residents went to collect the fuel in buckets, planning to sell it on the thriving black market for refined products. The same pipeline was punctured and set ablaze at four separate points on June 3. Witnesses said another fire was burning today at a pipeline running through a village a few kilometres from Adeje.
14 July 2000 – The oil fire which killed more than 200 people in southern Nigeria earlier this week has reportedly erupted again. Flames were seen shooting up to 8m into the air, near the village of Ovire Court in Delta state, where the first explosion occurred on Monday (July 10). Earlier, the governor of Delta state appealed for the wounded to come forward for hospital treatment. Most of the injured have sought help from traditional doctors because they fear arrest on suspicion of stealing oil if they attend hospitals. However, Governor James Ibori, speaking in the Delta State capital, Asaba, pledged that they would not be arrested. He expressed horror at the scenes of the blast which occurred along a stretch of pipeline between the villages of Adeje and Ovire Court outside Warri, where fire-fighters were still working to control the flames. The blaze flared up again after a second smaller explosion on Wednesday. Fire-fighters have halted the leakage of oil by pumping chemical foam along the pipe. The original explosion happened while people were using buckets to collect petrol flowing from the pipeline after it had been punctured by thieves on Sunday night. A senior police officer said: "An exact toll is unlikely to be clear for some time but we know more than 250 people died." "We have recovered a large number of bodies and more were burned to nothing," the officer said. Eyewitness accounts said the explosion destroyed fields and buildings in a 2km radius around the place where the pipe was broken open.
17 July 2000 – Between Ifie and Ijala, Nigeria
At least eight people have been killed in a new oil pipeline fire in south-eastern Nigeria. Unconfirmed reports put the death toll in the new fire as high as 30. The latest explosion occurred between the villages of Ifie and Ijala, south of Warri. The fire broke out around noon, yesterday. It is thought that the fire was caused by vandals. Many of the dead had been carrying funnels and plastic containers, which they had apparently intended to use to steal petrol. A few badly injured people were taken to a nearby hospital.
17 July 2000 – An explosion occurred early yesterday morning, on a river between the villages of Ifie and Ijala, three miles south of Warri, killing dozens of people. The victims were believed to be vandals using pumps to suck the fuel from the pipeline into metal drums, loaded on several boats, witnesses said. Several of the fuel drums exploded and spread the fire across the water surface. A number of boats were destroyed. Sheddy Ozoene, a spokesman for the Delta State Government, said 16 people were confirmed dead and ten were seriously injured. The blaze was extinguished within a few hours, Ozoene added.
A ruptured pipeline exploded near a refinery in southern Nigeria today, killing at least 30 villagers who had been scooping up gushing gasoline at the site, local officials said. Fire crews from the navy and state-run Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) were battling the blaze within the precincts of the Warri refinery as night fell, witnesses said. Officials said the fire had re-ignited, hours after it was extinguished by exhausted fire crews, working since the blaze had been reported at dawn today. The navy were called at about 05.00, local time (04.00 GMT), and managed to rescue 11 people immediately, but they all died shortly after, a naval officer said. The Chairman of Warri South Local Government, Joseph Otumara, said most of the dead were from Ijala and Ifie villages, both within the precincts of the NNPC-owned refinery. It is estimated that about 30 people died in the fire, Otumara said. Witnesses said the villagers had been siphoning off gasoline from the pipeline after puncturing it. They were transferring the petrol from the pipeline to a vessel, lying in the nearby Warri River, when the explosion happened, they said. Hospital workers said they expected the death toll to climb because of the condition of dozens of people taken to hospitals in the city. Two people died in hospital after Otumara's estimate of 30 dead. There are at least 15 badly burned people in Warri General Hospital and doctors said many had little chance of survival. There was no indication of any damage to the refinery, which has been shut for repairs for some time. Since its closure the pipeline has been used to pump imported refined products to a depot located within the refinery walls from vessels anchored in a jetty on the Warri River.