Monday, May 22, 1967 at 1 pm: The department stores A L'Innovation are ravaged by a fire of exceptional violence. More than 150 firefighters have been mobilized. They counted 323 dead, 150 injured and they had to fight for eight hours against a hell of more than 10,000 square meters.
Here is the flash info of the time to listen here
This was the greatest tragedy that Belgium has known in peacetime, since its independence.
A huge crowd rushes to the immediate vicinity of the disaster scene. Parents, friends and curious are there, helpless in the face of the drama that they already know murderer. Some pass security cords and mingle with rescuers who oppose, the front of the water to that of the fire. The rage of conquering the fear of failing.
Cries pierce the burning curtain of toxic fumes escaping from the second and third story windows. They go out at the same time as the blaze reactivated by the air rushing through the open doors and windows. On the cornices of the upper floors cling to customers and staff members who have managed, after often desperate efforts, to escape the flames.
"Do not jump, we bring the ladders," shouts a rescuer at the address of a young woman in the midst of a violent nervous breakdown. The flames lick the window of the second floor, by which she has just pulled out of the fire. Her dress and face bear the marks of her desperate flight, a struggle for life in a panic-stricken crowd. She approaches the edge of the ledge. She's crying. She runs into the void and crashes at the foot of the half-open ladder. Other bodies, including those of young children, are already strewing the ground.
The tragedy of innovation will mark a turning point in the prevention and organization of relief in Belgium.
(Journal Le Soir 1967).
That was 40 years ago .... Let's have an emotional thought for all the families of the victims of this disaster.
I'm sorry if these images shock you but it was imperative for me to talk about this disaster ... No website talks about this event and I do not want us to forget this event .... There is still many questions about the fire of Innovation .... Will we ever have an answer?
The work of destruction ...
I would like to thank Charly ex firefighter in the city of Brussels for the documentation and invite you to visit his blog by clicking on his name. At the same time, I welcome Dane, a firefighter to the city of Brussels and all his colleagues who save lives every day.
A word from Charly,
Like you, I searched the net without result. To believe that what was said at the time could be true and thus hide the truth by broadcasting as little information as possible. It was said that this had been intentionally provoked, 1st version: promoters and minister were accomplices, 2nd version: the famous American day, the doubt still exists, we also find a site that speaks about it, but I do not know where. At the level of the families of victims, there were only relatives and friends to support them, today said that there are psychiatrists, but it only lasts a lapse of time, a drama such as that the you mark yet for life. Already for us firefighters, there are lived dramas that can not be forgotten, especially about children, but we have chosen this profession that we love or have loved and we must assume it. Personally I'm proud of the job I've done for 32 years, believe me that I miss it despite I wanted to leave. Since my inactivity, I feel like I have become useless, especially when I see my colleagues in action on the news. When you have this profession in the skin, it does not leave you any more and I thank you for the words about our profession, it's a pleasure.
thank you on behalf of our big family that are the firefighters.
It was the 1st of May 1985 when the CCCs placed a bomb in Brussels ....
Let's never forget the firefighters who died in the line of duty.
For hours it was the sorry sight of this huge column of smoke on Brussels .... What a disaster This fatal May 22, 1967 ...
See the testimony of Mr. Dehon ...
The fire of Innovation: testimony of a survivor despite himself.
This unfortunate Monday lunch, sandwich of Togni and swallowed at Van Malder, next. Then return to the office at Priba whose building is located between the streets of the Laundry, Damier and Rue Neuve. The usual route of the church of Finistère diagonally crosses the ground floor of L'Inno to join a public access little known in the rue du Damier. It must be 13:25, nothing to report. I ride the 3 th floor, a few words with the boss for the jobs of the afternoon; my workstation is located against the window on rue du Damier. I make a call to my girlfriend ...
Sirens sound at around 13:45. Holding my future wife online, I open the window to see a fire truck engaged in the street Damier: there is smoke ... Then sounded the alarm bell! Staff must evacuate. My boss decides to check if the windows are closed, I accompany him in this mission and loses sight of him. I return to my office to see me as employees of the Board of Telephone, the building across the street, shouting to me that there are people trying to reach the balcony on the 5 th floor. I rush in without knowing too much.
There, on the roof of L'Inno, a group of people indicate that there are other people waiting for help. We are two or three on the balcony and it is the young me! - who climbs on the roof of L'Inno. The roofs of L'Inno are complicated: a first level decorated with horizontal concrete beams gives on a ladder of fire, which leads to another level also with a ladder towards a new level ... leading to a species of inner courtyard with a last ladder adjoining a French window. The left side of the court is decorated with a series of vasistas, in the bottom there is only one. On the roof are three or four survivors including a lady of strong build. We push and pull to the next level, then comes a man who feels unwell and breaks his nose on the rungs of the ladder. I was under. He is finally hoisted, I am the last and I am stupidly alone.
That's when I really see the Bunsen beak that has become the central canopy of L'Inno. And that I see someone breaking with the help of a ballet handle the skylight of the bottom of the court. Will I go down this ultimate ladder? I'll never do it because a flaming piece of cornice has just crashed on the roof where I am. First reflex, cover me. I go to an under slope to find that it houses gas cylinders. I do not appreciate it too much and comes up with the second reflex: flee immediately!
I climbed the ladders in the smoke and debris that fell to the wall leading to the balcony of Priba, where there was no one left. I hit the wall, took the stairs to find myself in the lobby. Firefighters were trying to extinguish a fire in an inner courtyard. One of the men of the fire rushes on me and leaving his equipment covers me with his leather jacket to rush me outside. That's when all the windows of L'Inno, side of the Damier Street explode. We wait a few seconds and the fireman ejects me in the street where an unfortunate writhes in pain in a gutter already filled with water. Then I call my parents and go through the Rogier place where the personal identifications take place.
The next day, the young people are called for inventory work at Priba. I go there with my camera. I take this opportunity to make some shots, then I manage to give a hand to the firemen who water the Priba / L'Inno adjoining walls that threaten to collapse. These are the photos you find here. They have never been published on the net ... or elsewhere.
With all my sympathy to the relatives of the victims.
"The Day After": around L'Inno and from Priba.
To locate it, oblique aerial published in "Le Soir" of May 25, 1967. In red, the route of R. Dehon from the balcony of Priba; in blue, the main axis of the photos; in yellow, the glass roof of L'Inno.
The street Laundry, right the branch Priba.
Rue Neuve seen from the corner of Mechelen.
The famous pediment of the Rue Neuve seen from the rue de Malines.
L'Inno restaurant area seen from the rue des Roses: the building collapsed.
Firefighters in action seen from the rue des Roses.
Inside the 5 th floor of Priba which completely burned.
View the 5 th floor of Priba to Inno.
Water infiltration reached the 3 th floor of Priba: recovery of business documents is not NASA.
All pictures below are taken from the roof of the 4 th floor of Priba, sometimes leaning a little ... They testify to the incredible violence of the fire. Note the steel beams bent by the intensity of the heat.
This is for me the iconic image of the Inno fire: "stairway to heaven", a funny impression anyway ...