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Rhineland faces road chaos after bridge fire

The Local · 15 Feb 2012, 11:20

Published: 15 Feb 2012 11:20 GMT+01:00

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A crucial part of the motorway between Düsseldorf and Cologne was completely closed on Tuesday in the wake of the smash. Burning plastic pipes under the motorway bridge filled the road with black smoke, causing an accident in which one man was killed and 13 people injured, two seriously.

The smoke was so thick and toxic that fire fighters had to use breathing equipment to get to the smashed cars, while the fire itself damaged the bridge so badly that chunks of concrete have fallen from it.

Heavy moving equipment normally used to remove crashed vehicles from accident sites could not be brought onto the bridge because it was so badly damaged. Some of the trucks involved in the crash were lowered off the bridge with winches.

The North Rhine-Westphalian state road construction firm told Die Welt newspaper on Tuesday evening the 100-metre bridge would have to be torn down and rebuilt.

The paper said around 70,000 vehicles usually use the bridge each day, as the autobahn is one of the busiest commuter routes in the region, while alternative routes are already chronically full of traffic.

Police are investigating what they said could have been the latest in a series of arson attacks in the area near the bridge around Dormagen.

“It could be a repeat offender, it could be that someone keeps setting fires – we don’t know, Hans-Jürgen Petrauschke, head of the local police told the regional NGZ news portal.

He said it was difficult to collect evidence from the sites of fires and called for people living nearby to report any potential sightings of arsonists. “The population has to become active in the investigation. Someone must have seen someone at one point,” he said.

There have been 12 arson attacks in the area around Dormagen in the past year, and 36 near the nearby village of Grevenbroich in the same period.

Story continues below…

The plastic pipes under the motorway bridge were stacked three metres high, and could have only been set on fire with reasonable effort, according the Peter Schöpkens, head of the Neuss fire brigade. “One cannot set such plastic pipes on fire like that with a cigarette lighter. Some kind of combustion agent was probably used,” he said.

The Local/hc

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:25 February 15, 2012 by Anth2305
We had a similar incident last year under the M1 motorway here in the UK when a scrap yard caught on fire, apparently lessons have now been learned, so it shouldn't happen again, although I won't be holding my breath.
15:32 February 15, 2012 by murka
"The 100-metre bridge would have to be torn down and rebuilt" - do you expect anything different from a road construction firm?

Besides, on the photo people are standing on a dry surface under the bridge, ehm?
17:46 February 15, 2012 by Englishted
Why were plastic pipes stored under the bridge?

They are not going to corrode and are not being use on the motorway you could store them anywhere.
20:44 February 15, 2012 by carlm
Wonder if any Trolls were hurt?
21:41 February 15, 2012 by wood artist

Not that you're likely interested, but the truth to your question is simple.

1. The land is already owned by the government, so there's no charge to use it. Otherwise it is largely just wasted space. Those spaces are used everywhere in the world to store surplus materials and equipment.

2. Some plastic pipe is not stabilized for UV exposure, so keeping it out of direct sunlight can be important. When it's used underground, that issue is unimportant. The bridge supplies a free sun-roof.

3. Not every action is done with the idea that no one will ever commit a crime made easier. If you park your car outside...assuming you have one...why? It makes it easier for a criminal to break in? Do you have bars on your windows? Why not? It would better protect you from criminals. Do you carry some sort of weapon to protect yourself? If not, why not? A criminal might pop up at any time.

In short, storing the pipe under the bridge makes perfect sense. Sadly, not everyone who posts here does.

08:38 February 16, 2012 by Englishted
@wood artist

Thank you for starting with a insult ,any particular reason ?.

So working on your assumption that it is a space lets use it and disregard and criminal threat ,would you store old cars and scrape under there ,how about full oil cans ,old chemicals , old tires, many of these would require a combustion agent .

"A criminal might pop up at any time." or a terrorist if you like.
10:27 February 16, 2012 by wood artist
Plastic pipe is unlikely to spontaneously combust. The other things you cite might contain likely accelerants, and obviously there are rules in most countries regarding the storage of "old chemicals" and "old tires"...because they do constitute hazards. Setting aside the issue of UV exposure, plastic pipe would not typically have any storage regulations beyond a "land use" issue. The same would be true, at least in the US, for the storage of "old cars."

16:54 February 16, 2012 by Englishted

You are right but say wooden pallets or wood in general, great that it is kept dry but asking for trouble.
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