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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"One of the theories is that it was an intentional arson attack"
 real 28k

The BBC's Colin Blane
"The prospect of finding survivors is almost nil"
 real 28k

The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"The explosion has numbed the town"
 real 28k

Sunday, 14 May, 2000, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Asbestos scare after fireworks blaze
An Enschede street looks like it has been bombed
An Enschede street looks like it has been bombed
The Dutch Government has warned that potentially harmful asbestos has been released into the air by the fatal explosions on Saturday.

The blast at a firework depot in Enschede killed at least 20 people, including four firefighters, and injured 562.

Dutch radio said an estimated 400 houses have been demolished so far and hundreds of houses are about to collapse.

City authorities said they still feared for the safety of several thousand people evacuated from the disaster area.

Click here for a map of central Enschede, on the German border

The fire, which began in a warehouse owned by the SE Fireworks company, spread to the storage area, which contained an estimated 100 tons of fireworks.

How could this happen and why here, why these people?

Prime Minister Wim Kok
It then moved to a Grolsch brewery next door, which has an asbestos roof.

Residents in the northern districts of Enschede, Hengelo and Delden were being advised to wash their clothes and not to do anything that might disturb the asbestos dust.

However, the mayor of Enschede said the levels were lower than had been feared, and some workers would be allowed back to start repairing houses

Full investigation to follow

Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, who visited the scene, said a full investigation would be conducted into the tragedy, and pledged virtually unlimited government resources to help rebuild the shattered city.

"How could this happen and why here, why these people?" he said.

Queen Beatrix comforts a police officer
Queen Beatrix comforts a police officer
The authorities are refusing to speculate on the cause of the explosions, but local journalists have suggested a link between the blast and a series of arson attacks in the town.

Queen Beatrix also visited the scene, witnessing streets carpeted with glass, burnt and flattened cars and houses with their roofs blasted off.

Shocked townsfolk are asking why a fireworks depot was allowed to be situated in such a built-up area.

Many town councillors say they were not aware there was a fireworks warehouse near the stricken residential district

Death toll could rise

Search and rescue teams have been sifting through the destroyed homes looking for survivors who may be trapped in the rubble.

Rescuers trained to deal with large-scale emergencies joined local firefighters and police as well as officers from Germany in the search.

The house was shaking and there was a mass panic. Fireworks were landing in the streets

Gordon Coles
About 200 of the injured were taken to Enschede Hospital while ambulances and helicopters ferried other to neighbouring towns.

A Dutch air force base was also used to treat the casualties.

Ten of those taken to Enschede Hospital were admitted to the Intensive Care Unit, and 59 were kept in overnight.

Injured woman
A woman is led to safety
Hospital chief executive Ten Vergert said patients had cuts, burns and broken bones but most had been allowed home after treatment.

Interior Minister Klaas de Vries said: "Everyone in the Netherlands feels compassion for the people of Enschede."

More than 2,000 Enschede residents were made homeless by the blast, and hundreds spent the night in local sport halls, which had been converted into emergency shelters.


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13 May 00 | Europe
In pictures: Firework blaze
14 May 00 | Media reports
Dutch PM shocked by blast chaos
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