On 13 May 2000, a catastrophic fireworks disaster occurred in the Dutch city Enschede. 23 people were killed, almost 1,000 injured and more than 1,000 buildings were destroyed.
The Enschede fireworks disaster was caused by a fire that broke out in the South East Fireworks depot on the 13th of May 2000, in the Dutch city of Enschede. Vuurwerkramp, as it is called in the Netherlands, is the biggest and most catastrophic explosion that has ever happened in Europe. Since 2000, there are annual public memorial services in Roombeek on 13/05, led by the city's mayor, Jan Mans.
The beginning of the end
In the work area of the central warehouse almost 900 kg of fireworks were stored and two full containers were illegally placed outside of the building. The fire began in that work area and then extended to the two full containers, leading to a chain reaction of explosions that eventually led to the ignition of the firework bunker. An estimated 177 tons of fireworks exploded, virtually destroying the surrounding residential area.
The blast was felt up to 30 kilometres away, a 0.4 square kilometre area around the warehouse was destroyed. The enormous explosion caused by the fire led to the death of 23 people and to the injuring of almost 1,000 persons. Around 400 homes were destroyed and 1,500 were damaged, leaving 1,250 people homeless. 10,000 residents were evacuated and the damage was estimated to cost more than €450 million!
The cause of the fire has never been officially verified. One possibility was arson, with several arrests being made by the Dutch police but the fire department stated an electrical short circuit could not be totally ruled out.
Administration of justice
In April 2002, the two managers of the company, Rudi Bakker and Willie Pater, were sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment for violation of environmental and safety regulations and dealing in illegal fireworks. They were also, found guilty of an explosion with deadly consequences because of neglect.
Moreover, a total of €8.5 million in compensation was awarded to the victims of the Enschede firework factory explosion according to the organisation in charge of distributing the compensation, the UPV, having assessed 3,519 claims: 300 people cash for incurring extra costs, 136 people money for loss of income and 1,477 people compensation for health problems.