An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in Germany killed at least two people on Tuesday, 31 others injured, and several still missing hours later. Fire officials said there did not appear to be a danger to nearby residents. Authorities had initially urged people to shelter inside over concerns of toxic soot.
The explosion at the waste management facility of the Chempark site in Leverkusen (near Cologne), sent a large black cloud into the air. It took firefighters almost four hours to put out the fire that took hold after the explosion.
Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance initially classified the incident as “an extreme threat.” However, later Tuesday, the Cologne fire department informed that pollution measurements “do not show any kind of abnormality.” They said the smoke had diminished but that they would continue to measure the air for toxins.
The city of Leverkusen said the explosion occurred in storage tanks for solvents.
Police said Tuesday afternoon that 31 people were injured, with five of them in intensive care. They didn’t give any details on the identities or the ages of the person who died or the people who were injured because not all family members had been informed yet.
They later confirmed the second fatality and said five employees were still missing.
“Unfortunately hope of finding them alive is fading rapidly,” the head of Chempark, Lars Friedrich, said in a statement.
City officials asked all residents to stay inside until the late afternoon. And they warned people from outside Leverkusen to avoid the region. City officials later also warned people not to let children play outside, use outside pools or eat fruit and vegetables from their backyards in the coming days. They said experts would only be able to tell in a few days how toxic the soot from the explosion would be.
The explosion occurred at 9:40 a.m. and developed into a fire. According to Currenta, three tanks were affected by the explosion, but it is too early to know the cause.
Police shut down several nearby major highways for several hours.
A Chemical Tragedy
Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s biggest chemical companies. It has about 163,000 residents and borders Cologne, which is Germany’s fourth biggest city and has around 1 million inhabitants. Many residents work at Bayer, which is one of the biggest employers in the region.
The chemical park is located close to the banks of the Rhine river.
Currenta has three facilities in the region. More than 70 different companies are based at the locations in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.
The mayor of Leverkusen, Uwe Richrath, called the blast “a tragic moment for Leverkusen.”
“It was a huge detonation felt all over the entire city,” he said. “I hope the missing people are still alive.”
This is another tragedy Germany is facing after recent flooding hit the country as well as other countries in Europe.
Published by HOLR Magazine