Debate over cause of power plant explosion

23 June 2004
A powerful blast on 21 June at a power plant near Algiers left 11 people wounded. The explosion at the Hamma power station was accidental, according to Algiers, although several newspapers speculated that the explosion was an attack by extremists.

After the explosion, Interior Minister Nouredine Yazid Zerhouni said the blast was 'apparently accidental', and added that an inquiry would 'determine the exact causes'.

State power company Sonelgaz, which owns and operates the Hamma station, said: 'The cause of the blast has not been determined'. Government-controlled media blamed the explosion on 'a technical incident'.

Newspapers cited anonymous witnesses and observations, such as a large crater in front of the power station and the perimeter wall's collapse 'toward the inside', as potential evidence of an attack.

The station, inaugurated by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika in 2002, supplies electrical installations throughout the country.

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