Don't miss




FIFA takes home revenue of over €5 billion from World Cup

Read more


Les Bleus 2018: The new 'tsars' of world football

Read more


Maltese foreign minister: ‘We need to implement legal paths of migration into Europe’

Read more


Eurogroup chief Centeno: ‘We need to an end what seems to be a trade war’

Read more


Trump rocks the boat in UK

Read more


World Cup Grand finale, Donald Trump blindsides Theresa May, Erdogan's family business

Read more

#TECH 24

Is the future of film interactive?

Read more


2018-07-13 21:47 EYE ON AFRICA

Read more


Ooh la la: Love and dating in France

Read more


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



2018-06-22 Asia-pacific

Video: Shenzhen, from fishing port to China’s Silicon Valley

As French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe begins a four-day visit to China in the south-eastern city of Shenzhen, our team reports from this former fishing village that’s been...

Read more

2018-06-08 Achraf ABID

Video: What remains of multicultural France that won 1998 World Cup?

Most French people remember where they were on the night of July 12, 1998. That’s when France was crowned the winner of the football World Cup, after beating Brazil 3-0. After...

Read more

2018-05-25 Middle East

After key battle, Syrian town of Kobane looks to the future

In 2014, the Syrian town of Kobane was the scene of a long and deadly battle involving the Islamic State group, Kurdish YPG forces and the US-led coalition.

Read more

2018-05-11 Africa

Video: Ten years on, what remains of Somalia's 'Pirateland'?

A decade ago, Somali pirates were frequently in the headlines for hijacking boats and holding their crews for ransom. The epicentre of the piracy crisis was Somalia's...

Read more

2018-04-27 Americas

Video: California residents prepare for 'the Big One'

All Californians are aware that one day "the Big One" – a massive earthquake – will hit the San Francisco Bay area. According to experts, there is a 90 percent probability that...

Read more