Gas company Fluvius has explained it identified a gas leak in the street in Wilrijk in Antwerp where an explosion on Tuesday destroyed three houses and damaged others, injuring three people and killing an 87-year-old woman.
“In the hours following the explosion, our services recorded unusual flows at the house at number 18,” Björn Verdoodt of Fluvius explained to the VRT. “Our services closed off the gas supply and the connection to the house was immediately and completely repaired. At the conclusion of the work, all statutory gas-leak tests were carried out around the repairs. No other irregularities were detected at other houses in the area, using the most sensitive measuring equipment. The natural gas network and connections in the entire neighbourhood were totally inspected on Tuesday.”
The gas company was later alerted by a Facebook message posted by a local resident, complaining of a smell of gas. Fluvius sent out a repair team, but only to put at rest the minds of residents – many of them elderly people already suffering from the trauma of the previous explosion.
Verdoodt refused to comment on whether the leak detected at number 18 could have been connected to the explosion in other houses. It will be up to the investigation currently being carried out to decide whether the leak existed before the explosion, was caused by the explosion, or was the result of digging work carried out to extract the four victims from the rubble. “No doubt the incident will be added to the prosecutor’s office dossier,” he said.
Both Fluvius and water company Aquafin carried out works in the neighbourhood before the explosion, and Aquafin was similarly reticent to discuss possible causes.
“As long as the investigation is continuing, we of course can say nothing with certainty , but at this moment there is nothing to suggest a possible fault,” Aquafin spokesperson Valerie Lievens told De Morgen. “We are also keen to find out what the exact cause was. Everyone here feels enormous sympathy with the people of the area. This touches us as well,” she said.