France - 
Article published the Friday 23 September 2011 - Latest update : Friday 23 September 2011

Toulouse looks back on deadly industrial accident

A man stands alone to pay tribute at the stele to the victims of the AZF factory explosion 21 September, 2011.
Reuters/Jean-Philippe Arles

By Clea Caulcutt

France commemorated the 10th anniversary of one of the country's worst industrial accidents on Wednesday, as controversy over who should pay for its disastrous effects still raging. In 2001, a huge explosion at a fertiliser factory near Toulouse left 31 dead and more than 8,000 injured.

Ecology activists and passers-by gather around a large crater etched onto the pavement in Paris to mark the 10th anniversary of a huge explosion at the AZF factory near Toulouse in the south of France.

Thirty-one people died in the accident and several thousand were wounded.

British artist Julian Beever drew the crater, saying he hoped people who saw it would remember the 31 victims of the accident.

"I think in the world we live in, we get news reports of disasters happening all the time it's very easy to become blasé and this drawing I'm doing here is simply to get people to remember," he said.

An investigation in 2006 blamed the blast on negligence at the factory. However a court dismissed charges of manslaughter against the owner of the plant, a subsidiary of energy giant Total.

Ecology activist Maryse Arditi told RFI she hopes the appeals court, set to review the judgement next month, does not dismises the case .

"This accident hurt a lot of people, many victims are still suffering from depression," she said. "I hope the trial will end soon and that the French courts expose the culprits. I would find it unbearable if the judges dismisses the case. This is the largest industrial accident in France since the 1960s, you can't simply say it was bad luck."

Several thousand survivors are still suffering from ailments related to the blast including deafness, depression and sleep disorders.

tags: France - Industrial accident - Toulouse
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