LyondellBasell plant fires were ‘criminal act’ - French minister

LyondellBasell plant fires were ‘criminal act’ - French minister

5:08 AM, 16th July 2015
LyondellBasell plant fires were ‘criminal act’ - French minister
One of the fires at the petrochemical facility owned by American firm LyondellBasell at the refineries around the Etang de Berre, near Marseille © Reuters photo

PARIS/MARSEILLES, FRANCE: Two explosions at a petrochemical plant in southern France early Tuesday that started potentially catastrophic fires are believed to have been the result of a “criminal act,” French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Wednesday, as quoted by French media reports.

“The initial evidence that has been communicated demonstrates that it was in fact caused by a criminal act, the motive of which has not been established,” Cazeneuve said.

The fires broke out on Tuesday after two tanks exploded at a plant owned by the company LyondellBasell Industries in the Berre-l’Etang, northwest of Marseilles. No one was injured in the blasts.

The two tanks exploded at 3.00 am, belching flames and thick, black smoke into the sky above the lake where the plant is situated. They were 500 metres apart, leading investigators to suspect arson since they consider it very unlikely that they caught fire “practically simultaneously,” as several witnesses said Tuesday, by accident.

French media quoted a source close to the investigation as saying that debris from an electronic device had been found at the plant site, and was being analysed to see if it were capable of triggering a fire.

“Investigators have found elements that could constitute, if they are identified as such, a pyrotechnic chain,” the source said.

“These elements were found not far from one of the two tanks that exploded but not in its immediate proximity. At this stage, we can’t yet confirm that it is an explosive device,” the source added.

France is on top security alert after last month’s suspected terrorist attack on a gas plant near Lyon, which came five months after 17 people were killed by gunmen in assaults on satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery store in Paris.

© Worldofchemicals News

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