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Twenty Dead In Dutch Town Blast

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The search for survivors of the thunderous fireworks explosion in the Netherlands has been abandoned. It killed at least 20 people, injured hundreds, and flattened 400 houses.

Local officials now say one hundred tons of fireworks were stored at the warehouse. Suddenly, they all went off like one big incendiary bomb. An area a half-mile square was flattened. Local people said it was like they'd been napalmed.

Herman Honakkers house was several hundred yards away. "We were sitting in the garden drinking coffee," he says. "And we saw the firework and it looks nice in the summer and then suddenly there came the big bang and it was like hell. It was terrible."

Teams of special investigators sought clues as to what triggered the huge detonation, examining blackened, twisted hulks of cars and shells of houses, sifting through rubble with their bare hands as firefighters extinguished persistent flames.


Reuters
Amateur video caught one of the blasts.


It was curiosity which drew people to the original fire and which contributed to the high death toll. That curiosity turned to shock at the explosion, and now it has turned to anger at how a warehouse filled with high explosives could be located in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

Rescue workers combed through the area all Sunday amid reports some sounds which might be survivors were being heard. But none were found. There were also fears, that the huge clouds of smoke sent into the air contained asbestos from the warehouse roof.

About 2,000 people were evacuated from the area and it was not known when they might be allowed to return. Some 800 people slept overnight in a temporary shelters, but officials said many people were being shifted to other facilities or homes.

On Sunday, the area was still sealed off. Residents whose houses had survived were told it was still too unsafe for them to be allowed home.


Reuters
An injured resident.


Holland's Queen Beatrix and Prime Minister Wim Kok toured the site of the blast on Sunday and tried to comfort some of its victims.

Kok said a full investigation would be conducted into the tragedy and pledged virtually unlimited gvernment resources to help rebuild the shattered city. A Reuters photographer saw the Queen comforting a policewoman on the verge of tears.

But the survivors will want more than sympathy. Theyll want to know how this could have happened.

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