France organized a memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the deadly explosion of a factory in Toulouse.
Thirty-one people were killed and thousands injured in a fertilizer factory explosion near the city on September 21, 2001.
The explosion completely destroyed the chemical plant of France’s biggest industrial disaster since World War II.
On Tuesday, local officials, firefighters and members of the victims’ association commemorated the disaster with a minute of silence.
The names of the 31 victims were read before wreaths of flowers were placed at the foot of the memorial.
“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families. France remembers,” tweeted the absent French President Emmanuel Macron.
Prime Minister Jean Castex added that the explosion had left France in a state of “shock and fear”.
“The nation respectfully bows its head in memory of the victims,” he added on Twitter. “My thoughts are with the people of Toulouse, whose emotions are still alive and whose memories are still intact.”
The deadly explosion of 2001 was caused by more than 300 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in a hangar at the AZF chemical complex.
The explosion, five kilometers from the center of Toulouse, measured 3.4 on the Richter scale.
After a legal battle that lasted 18 years, a French court in 2017 found the former director of the factory site guilty of “serious misconduct”.
Serge Biechlin was sentenced to 15 months in prison and a fine of € 45,000. In the meantime, the company that owns the factory – Grande Paroisse – has been ordered to pay a fine of € 225,000.
Both rejected claims that they had failed to meet security obligations and denied the charges.
Relatives of the victims have long accused the company, a subsidiary of Total, of not having recognized responsibility for the explosion.