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Warehouse Owners Probed in Blast

May 20, 2000

ENSCHEDE, Netherlands (AP) _ A week after a fireworks blast killed around 20 people in the Netherlands, police on Saturday questioned the owners of the storage depot where the disaster erupted.

Both men turned themselves in after an international warrant was issued for their arrest on Wednesday. Ruud Bakker was detained Saturday afternoon, less than a day after co-owner Wilhelm Pater reported to local authorities.

``They are suspected of knowingly breaking regulations,″ said Robert van der Hoeven of the Enschede public prosecutors office. If found guilty, the men could be sentenced to six years in prison.

They have not been charged with murder van der Hoeven said, adding that investigators focused on ``the storage and manufacture of fireworks at the site.″

Almost 1,000 people were injured on May 13 when 100 tons of explosives went up in an enormous explosion that flattened a whole working-class neighborhood in Enschede North.

Forensics teams have identified 16 bodies, including four firefighters and two young children. Six people are still missing after 400 houses were destroyed in the blaze.

Explosives experts are concerned illegal fireworks may have been kept in unsafe conditions at S.E. Fireworks.

On Friday, 100,000 people took part in a silent procession through the street of Enschede, 85 miles east of Amsterdam. Dutch Crown Prince Willem Alexander, Prime Minister Wim Kok and Mayor Jan Mans were among the masses who came from across the country to pay their respects.

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