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Prosecutors to appeal chemical plant explosion acquittal

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-20

French prosecutors have said they will appeal a court ruling that cleared a subsidiary of energy giant Total and its former boss of responsibility for a chemical plant blast that killed 31 people in 2001.

AFP - French prosecutors said Friday they would appeal a court ruling that cleared a Total subsidiary and its former boss of responsibility for a chemical plant blast that killed 31 people.

"It is an absolute duty with regard to the deceased people and all the victims," said prosecutor Michel Valet, who announced the appeal after victims of the 2001 blast denounced Thursday's ruling.

The court in the southwestern town of Toulouse said there was not enough evidence to prove that negligence by the Total subsidiary Grande Paroisse had caused the blast.

The explosion erupted in a storage warehouse packed with 300 tonnes of ammonium nitrate at the AZF chemical fertiliser plant near Toulouse owned by Grande Paroisse.

The blast, which also injured 2,000 people and devastated 30,000 homes, came just days after the September 11 attacks in New York and initially sparked fears that it was a terrorist attack.

That theory was later dismissed by investigators who believe it was an accident.

The Toulouse court on Thursday also dismissed a bid to hold the energy giant Total and one of its former bosses responsible for the explosion.

Since the blast, Grande Paroisse has paid out 1.954 billion euros (2.5 billion dollars) in compensation to more than 20,000 victims, according to Total's figures.

Date created : 2009-11-20

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