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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 17:28 GMT 18:28 UK
Mystery and pain go on for Toulouse
Ruins of the factory in Toulouse
The blast levelled parts of the factory
By Christopher Bockman in Toulouse

One month ago, France came face to face with its worst industrial incident in half a century, when an industrial complex exploded in the southern city of Toulouse just after the morning rush hour.

The city was plunged into a state of terror, unsure whether there had been a terrorist attack, or whether the noxious clouds lingering over the city were toxic.

The city has not recovered yet.

One month on, investigators still don't know what caused the explosion, which killed 30 people and injured 2,000 others.

Injured people wait for help
Two thousand people were hurt
Workers at the fertiliser plant still think it was caused deliberately, but most local officials in Toulouse now believe it was an accident.

What has come to light since the explosion is that the strict safety procedures that should have been put in place around the high-risk site were nowhere near as stringent as they should have been.

Even the clean-up operation at the industrial site has caused outrage, after the discovery last week of thousands of dead fish in the Garonne, the river which flows right past the sprawling industrial site.

Lawsuits pile up

It turns out the factory had tipped nine tonnes of liquefied ammonia into the river, and now faces a big fine on top of the pile of lawsuits the factory's owner, TotalFinaElf, already faces from residents affected by the tragedy.

Thousands of homes surrounding the plant are still without roofs, windows and even walls.

Toulouse resident surveying her damaged flat
Many homes remain damaged and uninhabitable
Temporary caravan parks have sprung up on the outskirts of the city.

Dozens of businesses, from family-run bakeries to large electrical goods stores, remain closed - and many are unlikely to reopen again.

The Mayor of Toulouse has called on the government to provide special one-off tax incentives to experts across France to come to Toulouse to help rebuild parts of the city.

In the meantime, dozens of cities across the country are considering whether they should continue to permit high-risk factories to operate so close to urban centres.

Pierre Chollet, Deputy Mayor of Toulouse
"The main problem is still housing"
See also:

22 Sep 01 | Europe
Anger at Toulouse blast location
16 Aug 01 | South Asia
India factory blast kills 25
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