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Spanish Holiday Disaster:

Workers Sacrificed for Profit

(July 1978)

From Militant, No. 415, 21 July 1978, p. 16.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

200 people killed! The 180 who survived are so seriously injured that they must also be added to the list of fatalities!

These are the horrifying details now emerging from the gas tanker explosion at the camping site at San Carlos de La Rapita, Spain, last Tuesday.

The accident occurred when a tanker carrying 38 tonnes of liquefied propylene – a highly inflammable chemical used to make synthetic fibres collided with a brick wall, and hurtled 100 yards into a camping site packed with holiday makers from Germany, Holland and France.

Eye witnesses spoke of a mighty explosion followed by a huge fire ball and then a rain of ignited liquid which saturated the whole area.

Within seconds the searing heat reduced people nearest the blast to smouldering charcoal. Those further away suffered appalling injuries as the intense heat tore off their skins and were literally boiled alive as they threw themselves into the sea that adjoined the site.

The heat was so great that cars and caravans were reduced to mere shells of metal as everything susceptible to flame vaporised and produced choking fumes, moreover, the tanks of butane gas, used by the campers for cooking, added to the casualties as they ignited and exploded.

Such was the enormity of the holocaust that many workers searching the camping site for bodies were so overcome with emotion as they came across bodies burnt beyond recognition, that they were unable to continue.

Feelings ran high amongst the survivors and relatives when it was learnt that most of those injured were unlikely to survive because they were so hideously burnt that plastic surgery was impossible.

They were further incensed when it was revealed that the disaster could have been averted for a paltry £7 if the lorry driver had used a new toll road rather than the narrow coastal highway.

The local population were angry and bitter but not surprised over the accident. They have attacked the Governor of the Province for not responding to the many requests to ban tankers from the highway.

Indeed, even on the day of the catastrophe, there was an accident involving a tanker carrying vinyl chloride which was released into the atmosphere. Vinyl chloride is a chemical notorious as a cancer forming agent.

Belatedly, 48 hours after the accident, the Governor banned all tankers carrying expensive cargoes from roads in built up areas, and reduced the tolls on the new A7 road.

That it has taken a disaster of this magnitude to galvanise the Governor into issuing a simple directive which would have saved the many lives lost, should be seen as an indictment of the rotten anarchic capitalist system whose only motivation is to increase profits.

The ban is too late for the many families who are in their graves, and those living whose lives have been wrecked, families who were compelled by the very system and its accompanying economic contradictions to seek out the cheapest form of holiday-making – the camping site with its primitive amenities rather than the expensive and luxurious hotels, only to be incinerated and subjected to horrors that defy the imagination.

The catastrophe has sent reverberations throughout the capitalist world, since most corrosive, poisonous, explosive and inflammable substances are carried by road tankers.

The most recent accident was in Mexico City at the weekend, in which 10 people died and another 200 seriously injured when a tanker carrying liquefied natural gas blew up. This has put pressure on the government to re-examine their policy on the transportation of hazardous chemicals.

The disaster in Spain has demonstrated that whilst the workers were moved to tears, the capitalists were moved only by other considerations of profits. Will other chemical haulage companies now change their routes and introduce safety precautions? Not on your life! How long until a similar accident happens somewhere else?

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Last updated: 9 August 2016