Research into Enschede fireworks disaster

A research team from the Department of Public Administration at the University of Twente is to carry out an independent investigation into the fireworks disaster of 13 May 2000 in Enschede on behalf of the Dutch House of Representatives. Radboud University Nijmegen is also involved in the study. The University of Twente’s research focuses on how the government can better learn lessons from disasters such as the fireworks disasters in Culemborg and Enschede.

The fireworks disaster involved a mass explosion at the Enschede fireworks company SE Fireworks, located in the Roombeek neighbourhood. Twenty-three people were killed, including four firefighters. A total of 947 people were injured. Nothing was left of the Roombeek neighbourhood after the explosion, and it was completely rebuilt. It was not the first significant fireworks disaster in the Netherlands: in 1991, a mass explosion occurred in Culemborg at the fireworks company MS Vuurwerk.

Parliamentary motion

The research into the fireworks disaster was initiated after the adopted motion by MP Leijten (SP), calling for the "findings of investigator Van Buitenen to be included in an independent investigation into the Enschede fireworks disaster and its handling." Former MEP and whistleblower Paul van Buitenen wrote a comprehensive report on the fireworks disaster.

René Torenvlied, the study’s project leader and professor of public administration at the University of Twente, thinks the investigation is important. Torenvlied: "We understand very well that there are people who wonder why the file on the fireworks disaster cannot be closed once. So far, there has been no systematic examination of how the government has learned from the disaster. We will look at that with the utmost care."

Drawing lessons

The study by the University of Twente looks at how lessons from previous fireworks disaster investigations have been translated into regulations on fireworks storage and fireworks firefighting. In doing so, the researchers focus on how the government can better learn from disasters such as the fireworks disasters in Culemborg and Enschede. Torenvlied: "We are not focusing on who was responsible, but how the House of Representatives can contribute to promoting learning processes within the government after such disasters."

The study will start in November and is expected to be completed by spring 2023.