GERMANY. Berlin: An explosion at a chemical park in western Germany on Tuesday left two people dead, at least 31 others injured and several still missing, the site operator said.
The explosion triggered a fire that took almost four hours to extinguish. The cause of the blast that rocked the Chempark complex at around 09:40 am (07:40 GMT) is not yet known.
The explosion happened at Chempark’s waste incineration site in Leverkusen’s Buerrig district, near Cologne.
The area is separate from the main industrial park nearby that houses numerous chemical companies including Bayer, Lanxess and Evonik Industries.
City officials urged all residents to stay home and shut doors and windows until the late afternoon and warned people from outside Leverkusen to avoid the region. City officials later also warned people not to let children play outside, use outside pools and rinse fruit and vegetables from their gardens before eating them in the coming days.
Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance initially classified the incident as “an extreme threat.” However, later, on Tuesday the Cologne fire department tweeted that pollution measurements did not appear to be a danger to nearby residents. They said the smoke had diminished but that they would continue to measure the air for toxins and the composition of smoke.
“The search for the missing continues at full speed. Sadly, hopes of finding them alive are dwindling,” said Chempark head Lars Friedrich.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident.”
The explosion ignited a fire in tanks that stored liquid solvents awaiting incineration, Friedrich said.
Three of the tanks “were completely or partially destroyed”, making it impossible to tell for now where the explosion started, Friedrich said.
Herbert Reul, North Rhine-Westphalia state’s interior minister, said 300 firefighters narrowly managed to prevent another tank exploding, which contained poisonous waste.
By Tuesday evening, the city of Leverkusen said measurements of pollution levels taken throughout the day “were unremarkable”, allowing the warning to shelter indoors to gradually be lifted.
Locals were however told not to clean and to avoid contact with any soot particles they might find, until further analysis by experts.