Explosion in Turnhout apartment block blamed on gas fire installation

Explosion in Turnhout apartment block blamed on gas fire installation
Credit: Belga

The explosion in an apartment block in Turnhout on New Year’s Eve may have been caused by a badly-installed gas fire, the investigation has suggested.

The explosion took place last Friday morning at around 08.15, and led to four fatalities: an elderly couple aged 60 and 70, and another couple aged 72 and 79. Two other residents of the building were injured.

Emergency services immediately suspected a gas explosion as the cause, but that hypothesis has now been confirmed by evidence gathered at the scene.

An investigating magistrate has been appointed to examine the incident, with a view to bringing charges such as accidental killing, accidental assault and battery and destruction of real estate by explosion in an inhabited building, resulting in death.

On Sunday, a fire expert joined police detectives to continue searching the apartment.

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In the meantime, the investigation has been extended to 11 other premises, on suspicion that the explosion was caused by the faulty installation by third parties of the gas fire in the apartment. Police have traced 11 other customers of the installation firm, where a similar situation might occur in the future. Those locations are in Antwerpen, Deurne, Wilrijk, Kontich and Schaarbeek.

On Monday, inspections were carried out at those location, involving police, fire services and utility companies.

Meanwhile federal interior minister Annelies Verlinden has visited the scene, together with Antwerp governor Cathy Berx, and met and paid tribute to aid workers who had been present since the previous day.

Turnhout mayor Paul Van Miert (N-VA), for his part, announced that those who had survived the explosion were doing well.

“We assume that we have now found everyone,” he said. “Everything has been checked two or even three times, so we are pretty sure that the fourth victim was the last. During the evening and night hours, no one has come forward to report relatives missing. The police are of course still on the scene. on the spot, but civil defence and firefighters left around 06:30 this morning.”

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