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Hidden danger: No overview over risk factories

Burnt down house after fireworks accident in Seest / Denmark.

After 2½ years of wob-struggle a list over dangerous factories has been made public in Denmark. However the list shows, that authorities do not have a full overview over dangerous factories.

A November afternoon in 2004 an accident happened in a fireworks factory in the town of Seest in Denmark. The following explosions destroyed 12 nearby factories and 355 private houses, 2000 citizens had to be evacuated, 176 of the houses were so badly damaged, that the families could not move back in according to the local authorities in Kolding.

In the aftermath of the accident the question about evacuation plans, public knowledge about security risks evolved. Public authorities in all EU countries are obliged keep track of dangerous factories. The nick-name of the directive is “Seveso directive” because the predecessor of the current directive was introduced after the tragic accident in Seveso in Northern Italy, where chemicals caused tragic damage.

The rules include several types of risk factories, most importantly the high-risk factories and other risk factories. After more than 2½ years of wobbing struggle the Danish authorities have now released a full list of risk companies, so citizens can see, whether there is a risk factory in their neighbourhood.

However the list is not perfect. It is more than five years old, and the responsible authority does not have an updated overview but estimates, that there are about 150 risk factories in Denmark today, 50 more than on the old list. No other authorities have a full list of the factories, according to Åbenhedstinget, a Danish website on journalistic stories accessed through wobbing.

Åbenhedstinget has added a map on its website, where people can see the risk factories from the list and add other places, where they believe other relevant factories could be placed.


National security excuse
Part of the reason for not disclosing the information were objections from the Danish Police Intelligence Service PET, writes journalist Nils Mulvad on Åbenhedstinget. However later the PET only required secrecy about the volume of dangerous substances held at each dangerous factory.

Nils Mulvad has already filed follow-up wob-requests. He wants to find out the actual status of the situation, and he wants to see, whether local authorities are aware of the so-called domino effect, in other words the danger of placing several dangerous factories close to each other. Also the accumulated danger of ships with dangerous substances in harbours with risk factories has not been included in the analysis in Denmark, according to Mulvad.

Brigitte Alfter



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