Dozens of 250 kg bombs, dating from World War II, could be unearthed at the Francazal military base, near Toulouse. Beginning work today. Several dwellings will have to be treated, as a precaution.
Toulouse, August 12, 1944. Hundreds of bombs fall on the routed Nazi occupier. Allied aviation strikes in particular Blagnac and Francazal, strategic points. Dozens of planes are destroyed. Victory is near. A week later, August 19, it is the liberation.
Seventy-seven years later, this Monday, October 4, a site opens which could bring to light several dozen of these shells, on the Francazal base. The Army, which still occupies the north of the base, must build a building that will house its health service. To secure its foundations, a basement decontamination operation is mandatory.
“There is a good chance that we will find shells”
Thanks to electromagnetic detectors, more than 200 metal parts, of all weights and sizes, were located underground, on a plot of one hectare. With the excavator, then with the strength of the arms, the technicians of the company Berengier Dépollution (group NGE), will dig and unearth all these pieces of metal. “There is a good chance that we will find shells, breathes Stéphane Maitrehut, the technical manager. We know very precisely where the metal objects are, and how deep ”.
When Francazal was bombed in the 1940s, the base was in the middle of the fields. Since then, the Michet suburban district, in Cugnaux, has been built. Several hundred houses are wedged there, between the artisanal zone of the Helmet and the runways of the airfield. A few tens of meters from the site.
The Haute-Garonne prefecture, in the name of the precautionary principle, has therefore started a public information procedure. In total, more than 200 homes are affected by an evacuation procedure.
“We already know that five houses, which are located as close as possible to the site right-of-way, should be evacuated the week of October 11, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.,” explains Marc Zarrouati, chief of staff of the prefect of Haute-Garonne. It is a precautionary measure, during the excavation of the basement, as close as possible to the houses ”.
Evacuations will be mandatory, and others conditional on the discovery of shells, which will be destroyed on the spot.
“Houses that are within a maximum perimeter of 213 m around the construction site may also have to be avoided, for a few hours, if shells are to be destroyed. “
The dates of November 4 and 9 are already targeted, for procedures for destroying any shells. “It is far too dangerous to transport these shells. We will therefore have to destroy them on site, if we are successful, ”explains the site manager. A “sarcophagus” of several hundred tons of sand, itself surrounded by enormous sandbags, will be formed to isolate the shell to be destroyed.
“No shrapnel, no shock wave will be able to come out of this sarcophagus and damage the surrounding houses”.
Two other decontamination phases to come, in Francazal
Until November 10, a first phase of soil decontamination in Francazal, north of the base, will take place. This operation, prior to the construction of an Army building, will require the evacuation of several dwellings. But the work on the Francazal base will not stop there. There will be other pyrotechnic depollution operations: one for the expansion of the tarmacs at the aerodrome, which should begin in early 2022. And two others, in the 38 hectare area purchased by Toulouse Métropole from the State, to the south. from the base. This second phase will probably take place in the wake, in 2022 or 2023. Space must be delivered to the Occitanie Region in 2024.