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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Eleven held for Toulouse blast
Experts say the blast was a "chemical accident"
French authorities investigating last year's explosion at a chemical plant in Toulouse have remanded 11 people in custody.

All were employees at the AZF factory or sub-contractors who worked at the site before the blast on 21 September, which killed 30 people and injured more than 2,000 others.

Judges leading the manslaughter investigation received a report earlier this month from experts, who described the disaster as a "chemical accident" not a deliberate act.

The plant, located about 3 km (two miles) outside the south-western city of Toulouse, was levelled by a blast with the strength of a 3.2 magnitude earthquake.

Terrorism fear

The explosion scattered debris over a wide area and carved a 50m (164 feet) wide crater into the ground.

It also blew the roofs off some of the nearest houses, leaving hundreds homeless.

AZF was the biggest fertiliser producer in France.

When it was originally built in the 1920s, the factory was far from inhabited areas, but this changed as the city grew.

Coming in the wake of the 11 September attacks on New York, some feared that the explosion could have been caused by terrorists.

Local media reports, however, suggested that workers at the plant may have made a mistake while mixing chemicals.

See also:

16 Aug 01 | In Depth
22 Sep 01 | Europe
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