AZF Explosion

Monday, 21st September 2009 by

8 years ago today, on 21 September 2001, a huge explosion occurred in the AZF (AZote Fertilisant – nitrogen fertiliser) factory in Toulouse, France. Three hundred tonnes of ammonium nitrates blew up, creating a 200 m wide crater up to 30 m deep.

Steel girders were found 3 km away from the explosion, which itself was heard 80 km away (50 miles).

29 people died as a direct result of the incident, and over 10,000 people were injured – many thousands by the flying glass from the two thirds of the city's windows that were shattered. Around 40,000 people were also made homeless for several days.

The official enquiry stated that the ammonium nitrate had exploded following "improper handling", but there were unconfirmed rumours at the time that suggested that this tragedy was actually the result of a terrorist attack.

Just to the east of the crater is a large pixelated area. The Street View imagery isn't pixellated though, and shows gives a fairly clear view of a factory. I wonder what it is?

There's more information and theories available at Wikipedia.

Thanks to @KeirClarke.