ToulouseToulouse is a city in southern France on the shores of the Garonne river. It is also the préfecture (capital) of the Haute-Garonne département. The population of the city proper is 398,423 (as of the 1999 census), with 741,000 inhabitants in the greater metropolitan area. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Lyon and Marseille. The current mayor is Philippe Douste-Blazy.
The Roman city of Tolosa became the capital of the Visigoth empire, and later of the kingdom of Aquitaine. In 1271, the area, then a county, was incorporated into France. The University of Toulouse (Université de Toulouse), established in 1230, is located here. It is today one of the largest university cities in France (second after Paris) with more than 110,000 students attending its 3 polytechnics and universities (Université Paul Sabatier, Université Toulouse Le Mirail, Arsenal), and engineering schools (ENSEEIHT, INSA, INPT, ...)
The main industries are aeronautics, space, electronics, information technology and biotechnology. Toulouse hosts one of the two main factories of Airbus. The metro is driverless (automatic), the VAL system (véhicule automatique léger); the vehicles are rubber-tired.
Toulouse suffered the explosion of the AZF chemical plant on September 21, 2001. The plant was totally destroyed and the explosion destroyed many houses, schools and shops. More than 35,000 flats were damaged. The plant is 8 km (5 miles) from the centre of Toulouse. Twenty nine people died and several thousand were injured. The root of the explosion was in a building containing ammonium nitrate.
See also: Counts of Toulouse.