Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Case dismissed against French troops accused of child rape in Central African Republic

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Spain set to overtake US in tourism rankings

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

#MeToo and mixed messages

Read more

THE DEBATE

Tunisia's revolutionary fire: Fresh protests, seven years after Arab Spring

Read more

FOCUS

Stolen medication sold on black market in Mexico

Read more

ENCORE!

Brendan Power: The future of the harmonica

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Louise Arbour: Negative attitude towards migration 'completely self-defeating'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Former WTO head Lamy: 'Brexit is like trying to get an egg out of an omelette'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

2018 begins: A happy new year for Europe?

Read more

REVISITED

We return to places which have been in the news - often a long time ago, sometimes recently - to see how local people are rebuilding their lives. Sunday at 9.10 pm. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2015-01-23

Questions still haunt victims of Toulouse chemical plant blast

September 21, 2001. Hanger 221 of the AZF factory in Toulouse is suddenly obliterated. 500 tons of fertilizer explode and a shockwave sweeps away everything in its path, reaching the centre of the city. 31 people were killed that day, and thousands injured in what’s been described as France’s worst industrial accident since World War Two. Nearly 14 years on, the courts are still grappling with the case. For those affected, there’s little sense of closure. France 24 went to meet them.

We meet Pauline and her husband Laurent as they make an emotional return. For the first time in nine years, they're visiting their former home. It was devastated by the AZF disaster back in 2001.

"Everybody in the estate was outside, some of them were covered in blood,” recalls Pauline, who was driving nearby at the time of the explosion.”It was like a warzone. I was in nervous shock and crying. There was blood pouring out of my head because I'd lost my left ear."

After all this time, Pauline is still suffering the psychological side-effects of the blast.

Meanwhile, Jacques Mignard, former security chief at the AZF site, is still seeking justice for former workers.

The AZF affair has seen two huge trials involving 3,000 plaintiffs and 50 lawyers.
In 2012, the Toulouse appeals court ruled the explosion was caused by the accidental mixing of two chemical products at the plant. The Total subsidiary in charge was judged guilty of causing death, injury and damage through negligence.

But the story isn't over. In January 2015, the Supreme Court ordered a new trial, this time in Paris.

Jacques is pleased at the chance to re-examine the facts, with much speculation remaining over exactly what happened: "We hope a fair trial will be organised, taking every aspect into account."

Didier was technical director at the plant back in 2001 and went on to work for Total after the disaster. He’s devoted his spare time to going through the 7,000 page trial dossier, as well as statements from witnesses and experts that were never taken into account in court. For him, the official version of events doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

"People want fast, easy explanations, because that way it's easier to mourn the victims and turn the page," Didier says.

"What is more difficult is to go through all the facts we have, one by one, and analyse them using tools like Google Earth, which the inquiry never did at the time. When you go through all the trial evidence, some of it is unbelievable.”

Gérard Ratier denounces a judicial fiasco. He’d hoped the affair was over and that he could finally complete the mourning process for the son he lost.

"It's all been going on far too long. However powerful Total may be, they won't escape justice. I don't know what the future holds, but I don't think the mourning period will ever be over."

14 years after tragedy hit Toulouse, many of those affected are still seeking closure.

And as time passes, there's a growing feeling that a truth acceptable to all may never be found.

By Christopher MOORE , Julie DUNGELHOEFF

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2018-01-05 Asia-pacific

How former Maoist child soldiers became engineers of Nepal's democracy

Between 1996 and 2006, a bloody civil war between Maoist revolutionaries and the state tore Nepal apart. A decade later, FRANCE 24 Reporters head to Nepal for the first...

Read more

2017-12-21 Africa

The remains of Central African Republic's imperial past

FRANCE 24's reporters returned to the Central African Republic, 40 years after Jean-Bedel Bokassa crowned himself emperor. Nicknamed the "Central African Napoleon", Bokassa was...

Read more

2017-12-08 Egypt

Video: Tahrir Square, a melting pot for Egyptian revolutions

Egypt’s Tahrir Square is emblematic of the Arab Spring uprising. In January 2011, thousands of Egyptians thronged onto the Cairo square to protest society-wide corruption and...

Read more

2017-11-09 Europe

Video: Remembering France’s 'camp of shame' at Rivesaltes

For three decades, Rivesaltes in southern France was home to the largest internment camp in Western Europe. FRANCE 24 returns to the site where tens of thousands of people were...

Read more

2017-10-26 Middle East

Video: East Jerusalem still at heart of Middle East tensions

At the end of the 1967 Six-Day War, the victorious Israeli army took control of East Jerusalem, placing both Muslim and Christian holy sites under the control of the Israeli...

Read more