Subj: Explosion Destroys French Petrochemical Plant; Three Reported Dead
Date: 9/21/01 5:05:38 AM Pacific Daylight Time

Sep 21, 2001

Explosion Destroys French Petrochemical Plant; Three
Reported Dead

TOULOUSE, France (AP) - A huge explosion ripped through a
petrochemical plant in Toulouse on Friday, blowing out
windows across the city in the south of France. A TV station
reported that three people were killed.

Officials blocked off the industrial area in suburban
Toulouse, evacuated schools and the subway and told people
to stay home. There were fears that plumes of smoke drifting
across the city could be toxic.

"There are numerous victims surely, but it's impossible to
say how many," regional prefect Hubert Fournier told French
radio. He wouldn't comment on the cause of the explosion.

LCI television reported that three people had died. Other
media reports said the blast appeared to be accidental.

Phone lines were heavily disrupted to the Toulouse area and
officials were difficult to reach.

"I was on a freeway going toward the airport, and then I saw
a big cloud, a big yellow mushroom that seemed to be
sulfur," a Toulouse businessman told French radio. His name
wasn't given in the report.

It was not clear whether there was one blast or several. The
main explosion apparently took place at a plant that
manufactures rocket fuel for Arianespace, the European Space
Agency's commercial arm. French radio also reported
explosions at a plant owned by Groupe SNPE, which is also in
the center of Toulouse.

Groupe SNPE is a French industrial group with two core
businesses, propellants and explosives.

Witnesses told The Associated Press that hundreds of people
fled into the streets after the blast, the force of which
blew out hundreds of windows in the city.