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France

Court fines energy giant GDF Suez over deadly gas blast

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-08

A French court has fined energy giant GDF Suez 232,500 euros ($321,600) for manslaughter and causing injury in a gas explosion that killed 18 people in 2004 in the eastern city of Mulhouse. The company's lawyer said it would not appeal.

REUTERS - A French court fined energy giant GDF Suez 232,500 euros ($321,600) on Monday for manslaughter and causing injury in a gas explosion that killed 18 people in 2004.

 

The blast, which tore through a five-storey building in the eastern city of Mulhouse, also injured 16 people.

 

A broken pipe under a street caused gas to pour into the basement before exploding. The pipe was made of a brittle type
of cast iron which GDF had pledged to replace in all its pipes by 2000 but it later changed that policy.

 

“Abandoning the policy of replacing grey cast iron, when trade unions had repeatedly underlined the dangers of it, constitutes a fault,” judge Christine Schlumberger said in the court ruling.

 

The court denounced “the absence of rigour and checks in the monitoring of pipes”, but it did not allow senior GDF executives to be tried as defendants as requested by the victims’ families.

 

Gas company GDF, which merged with utility Suez last year, was fined 200,000 euros in 2006 over a similar case in which 11 people were killed in 1999.

 

“It’s good to hear the conviction,” said Angelique Dabek, whose brother died in the explosion. “For them, it’s a derisory amount of money. They won’t even feel it. We just hope that they will care about safety.”

 

GDF Suez’s lawyer said the company would not appeal.
 

Date created : 2009-06-08