BERLIN: An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in Germany killed at least one person on Tuesday, with 16 injured and four missing. Firefighters who tested the air said there did not appear to be a danger to nearby residents after authorities initially urged people to take shelter inside.
The explosion at the waste management facility at the Chempark site in the city of Leverkusen, near Cologne, sent a large black cloud into the air. It took firefighters nearly four hours to extinguish the blaze that gripped the explosion.
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 air pollution measurements “do not show any kind of abnormality.” They said the smoke had dropped but they would continue to measure the air for toxins.
The city of Leverkusen said in a statement that the explosion occurred in solvent storage tanks. He said four people were hospitalized with serious injuries.
“We are deeply concerned about this tragic accident and the death of our employee,” Chempark Director Lars Friedrich said in a written statement.
Currenta, the company that operates the chemical park, said the explosion occurred at 9:40 a.m. and then turned into a fire.
“Sirens went off to warn residents and warning alerts were sent out,” Currenta said in the statement.
Police in nearby Colonia said a large number of officers, firefighters, helicopters and ambulances from across the region had been deployed to the scene. They asked all residents to stay inside and warned people outside of Leverkusen to avoid the region.
They also closed several major highways nearby.
Daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that the smoke cloud was moving in a northwesterly direction towards the cities of Burscheid and Leichlingen.
Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of the largest chemical companies in Germany. It has around 163,000 inhabitants and borders Cologne, which is the fourth largest city in Germany and has around 1 million inhabitants. Many residents work at Bayer, which is one of the largest employers in the region.
The chemical park is very close to the banks of the river Rhine.
Currenta has three facilities in the region. More than 70 different companies are based at locations in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.