Enschede Fireworks Disaster

On 13th may 2000 a catastrophic fireworks explosion took place at the SE fireworks depot in the city of enschede in netherlands killing 23 people and injuring nearly 1000 people. Two explosions were experienced, first having strength equivalent to 800kg TNT and second (final explosion) was in the range of 4000-5000kg TNT. The final explosion was experienced even 30 km away from the scene. A total of 400 houses were destroyed and 1500 buildings were damaged due to the explosion.

The fire is believed to have begun in the central building’s work area, where some 900 kg (2,000 lb) of fireworks were stored. It spread to two full containers outside the building, which were used illegally to store more display fires. When 177 tons (174 tons long; 195 tons short) of fireworks exploded, the surrounding residential area was destroyed.

One theory for the scale of the disaster was that the central complex’s internal fire doors–which could have contained the fire–were left open. In theory, an explosion was considered highly unlikely because the fireworks were stored in sealed bunkers to minimize this risk. The illegal use of shipping containers, however, reduced safety at the site, especially since they were closely arranged at ground level and were not separated by earthworks or other forms of partitioning.

SE had been audited one week before the explosion. The company was found to have complied with all official safety regulations while the legal fireworks were inspected safely by the Netherlands authorities and considered safe.

When it was built in 1977, the warehouse was outside the city, but it was surrounded by low-income housing as new residential areas were built. Residents and town councilors said they didn’t even know that in their area there was a fireworks warehouse. Later in the case of the court, the judge said that city officials failed to take action even if they knew that the laws were broken. They acted “completely incomprehensibly “by allowing the company to expand in fear of the city paying the cost of moving SE Fireworks to another location.

Control measures that can be taken are as follows:

  1. Government should limit the quantity of fireworks that can be kept at a place keeping in mind the consequence of explosion.
  2. Automatic Door operating system could have been used which would allow only authorized person to enter & leave it and always keep it close.
  3. Company’s should be punished by asking them to pay heavy penalties for storing illegal fireworks (extra amount in this case).
  4. Audit’s should be carried out properly and issues concerning safety should not be taken lightly. (in this case due to good track record authorities did not concentrate on the safety issues).
  5. The governmental department of urban development should always keep records of the surroundings of the residential area (in this case, Residents and town Councillors stated they did not even know that there was a fireworks warehouse in their area).