September 21, 2001

On the morning of 21 September 2001, an explosion occurred in Shed 221 of the AZF plant in Toulouse. The shed contained about 300 metric tonnes of downgraded ammonium nitrate. As this ammonium nitrate no longer complied with commercial specifications, it was being stored while awaiting shipment to other Group plants to be used in manufacturing compound fertilizers.

The explosion left a crater several tens of metres across and was heard more than 40 km from Toulouse.

The explosion caused 31 deaths, including 21 people working at the AZF plant. More than 4,500 people in the area were injured.

27,000 buildings were destroyed in the surrounding area.

None of the investigations carried out so far has determined the exact causes of the explosion.

Crater left by the explosion.
© Grande Paroisse 

Aerial view of the northern area of the plant after the disaster.
© Grande Paroisse Zoom in

The AZF plant in Toulouse on September 21, 2001.
© Grande Paroisse     

Securing of the site

The site was secured as soon as the explosion occurred.

Site securing operations were undertaken on 22 September 2001. These operations involved specific procedures that implemented in cooperation with the regulatory authorities.

The operations concerned, in particular, the removal of materials present on the site, mainly commercial products (ammonia, chlorine, soda, nitric acid, ammonium nitrate solution, bulk urea and packaged chlorine products).

 Other operations were also carried out to:

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