France publishes official report into Toulouse chemicals disaster

Following the most serious industrial disaster in Europe since the 1920’s, the French government has released its first assessment of September’s chemical factory explosion, making several recommendations on hazardous industrial installations.

The environment ministry review gets no closer to the cause of the chemicals factory explosion in a residential area of Toulouse, which killed 29 and injured around 2,400 (see related story), which the Interior Ministry said was due to an “incident in the handling of products”, but which many believe was the work of terrorists.

The report provides an in-depth assessment of administrative controls at the factory, of inspection procedures at hazardous facilities, on how housing was permitted close to the site, adding to the severity of the disaster, and on knowledge of ammonium nitrate, the chemical produced at the site.

From now on, the report says, ammonium nitrate should be classed as an explosive, and European legislation governing the prevention of major industrial accidents should be widened to cover facilities containing the chemical, including manure. Indeed, following the disaster, the European Parliament called for the Seveso II Directive, which is due for revision, to be made far stricter (see related story).

The Government also calls for new measures to prevent accidents from occurring in ports and marshalling yards, reinforcing European wide discussion on the location of hazardous activities and public information governing them, and greater power for French local authorities to govern hazardous activities. The report also calls for greater control on urban sprawl near such facilities.

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