The Enschede fireworks disaster, called Vuurwerkramp (Dutch: literally, "fireworks disaster"), was caused by a fire which broke out in the SE Fireworks depot on May 13, 2000, in the eastern Dutch city of Enschede. The fire led to an enormous explosion that left 22 people dead (including four firemen) and 947 injured. The biggest blast was felt up to 30 kilometres from the scene. About 1,500 homes were damaged or destroyed, leaving 1,250 people homeless. The damage was estimated to cost 500 million (US $302 million) in insured losses alone.
The fire started in the work area of the central warehouse where some 900 kg of fireworks were stored. The fire extended to two full containers that had been placed illegally outside of the building. Since the fire department could not contain the fire initially, it was able to spread to a third container, which exploded shortly afterwards. A chain reaction of explosions eventually led to the ignition of the firework bunker. An estimated 177 tons of fireworks exploded, virtually destroying the surrounding residential area. Dutch voting in the Eurovision Song Contest 2000 was suspended to free up phone lines for the emergency services, as a mark of respect and due to the fact that Dutch Television cut their transmission of the contest during it's running, to show Breaking News coverage.
The cause of the fire has never been officially verified. One possibility was arson, with several arrests being made by the Dutch police but the fire department stated an electrical short circuit could not be totally ruled out.
In April 2002, the two managers of the company, Rudi Bakker and Willie Pater, were sentenced to fifteen months' imprisonment for violation of environmental and safety regulations and dealing in illegal fireworks. Furthermore they were found guilty of an explosion with deadly consequences because of neglect. In May 2002, André de Vries, who was accused of the arson, was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment but this decision was later overruled by a higher court and he was acquitted.
Dutch fire safety regulations
The SE Fireworks disaster has led to intensified safety regulations in The Netherlands concerning storage and sale of fireworks. The area that was destroyed by the blast has since been rebuilt.