Students evacuated in asbestos victory

October 11, 1996

Anti-asbestos campaigners at Paris's largest university site claimed a "remarkable victory" last week when education minister Francois Bayrou promised a FFr 1.2 billion (Pounds 150 million) clean-up.

He said: "We have decided to go ahead with a complete and final decontamination of the Jussieu site as fast as possible."

Jussieu campus, at the edge of the Latin Quarter, is home to two universities and 50,000 students and staff. A quarter of a million square metres of buildings and 20 kilometres of corridors have to be decontaminated, making Jussieu the biggest asbestos-ridden site in the world to be renovated.

A strike started the previous day was called off immediately and plans to blockade the site and hold a demonstration were cancelled. Protestors had been angry at the lack of government action but also afraid the site would be evacuated and sold off as prime riverfront real estate.

President Jacques Chirac provoked anxiety with a surprise promise in July that no students would be allowed to remain on the contaminated campus.

Mr Bayrou promised that temporary premises will be made available in an unused city centre building and at a location in the suburbs while the Jussieu buildings are treated. Departments will move into the temporary accommodation in turn.

However there is still the problem of staff diagnosed as having asbestosis. More than 20 people at Jussieu are officially recognised as having asbestos-linked ailments. Two, a lecturer and a technician have decided to go to court.

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