Preliminary Report Says Weakened Concrete Roof Structure Probable Cause of Paris Air Terminal Collapse

July 7, 2004

A preliminary report by the commission investigating the cause of the partial collapse of the newly-constructed Terminal 2E building at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) airport, which killed four persons and injured five on May 23, said weaknesses in the concrete roof structure were the probable case.

The oval shaped roof apparently weakened in several places, allowing the supporting columns to penetrate the structure, and eventually, due to the friction, caused a portion of the roof to collapse. No immediate cause was given as to why the concrete in the year-old building deteriorated so rapidly, but reports on French television speculated that extreme weather conditions (last summer’s heat wave and a rainy, cold winter) may have been instrumental in causing the deterioration.

The commission, headed by Jean Berthier, president of the French Scientific and Engineering Council, did rule out speculation that the supporting pillars themselves were at fault. Many had shown cracks subsequent to their erection, and had been repaired. The commission also said it had found no evidence of ground subsidence or shifting, which would have affected the building’s foundations. Further tests are to be conducted both on the foundation, and on the materials, notably the concrete, used in the building’s construction.

The report cited no evidence that the rest of Terminal 2E is unsafe. Such a finding would have increased the real possibility that the structure, which cost around 750 euros ($925 million), would have to be demolished. Current plans are to partially reopen the terminal on July 15.

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