Friday, July 30, 2004

Hi there. I’m succumbing to the old adage that “if it bleeds, it leads”, but this was pretty devastating. A massive gas blast occurred at about 8.30am local time on an industrial estate in Ghislenghien, which is only some 8 kilometers south from where I live. It appears a ground working machine pierced a gap into a large gas distribution tube. The actual explosions took place when a team attempted to seal off the leak. The explosion was horrific, and up till now it is reported that fifteen people have been killed and some 112 wounded, 30 of them with very severe burning wounds (U1 and U2, whatever that may be). Had I been at home, I would have heard it and seen the flames and the ensuing smoke pillar. It was all over the news, national and even international, see BBC and even CNN.

Interior Minister Patrick Dewael was first on the site, PM Verhofstadt and Minister of Public Health Demotte suspended their holidays in Tuscany and Bulgaria and hurried home. Most if not all people killed appear to be either police or firefighters. The Firefighter Chief of Ath, the city lying closest by, and appointed only two weeks, was among those killed. Very sad. I saw helicopter shots form the explosion site and surroundings and it looked like hell, with half of a factory blown to smithereens, several other industrial buildings nearby severely damaged and car parks with all parked cars in ashes. Part of the surrounding corn fields had been set ablaze too. The government declared it a national disaster.

Gas transport and distribution throughout Belgium and to the surrounding countries is the responsiblity of the FLUXYS company. There’s a large LNG Terminal in the North Sea port of Zeebrugge. Not only gas tankers moor there, it’s also the endpoint of the so-called Zeepipe, a gas pipeline transporting Norwegian natural gas to Belgium over the sea bed. Anyway, when you look on the Fluxys' small map (note Belgium’s jagged contours and triangular shape) you notice the purple lines, representing high-calorific gas lines, and some yellow lines, which stand for low-calorific gas transport. The explosion occurred somewhat two-thirds down the axis Zeebrugge (in the northwestern corner) / Blaregnies (central down). A lot of that gas crosses the border towards France, so I guess the gas supply of a lot of households and industries in Northern France got cut off. Luckily, from the map it seems the cut off line can be easily bypassed by the grid’s redundant conduits. Note also that Fluxys’ share was taken off the Brussels Stock Exchange.

Now that I am on it, I may elaborate a bit on the so-called Zeepipe. Part of it, Zeepipe I (the oldest tube system) links the Sleipner East and West natural gas fields in the Norwegian North Sea to Zeebrugge. The line carries 13 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

I have to mention yet that just today I read latest prose

Worse still, the commission has helped to resurrect the fable that we are hated for what we do or don't to Muslims rather than who we are. But the collective brain power of the commissioners could not adduce a simple explanation as to why French and Germans are busy rooting out plots to blow up their own citizens — despite billions of EU money sent to terrorist organizations like Hamas, support for Arafat, and cheap slurs leveled at America in Iraq. Why do Muslim radicals hate Europe when Europeans have no military power, no real presence abroad, give billions away to the Middle East, despise Israel, will sell anything to anyone anywhere at anytime, and have let millions of Arabs onto their shores? Are daily threats to Europeans earned because of what Europe does — or is the cause who they are?

I keep repeating myself when I say that Europe desperately needs columnists like VDH or Mark Steyn. These guys baffle me time and again with their compelling prose.

No comments: