BERLIN: An explosion in a German industrial park on Tuesday killed at least two people and injured 31 others, setting off violent flames that caused a cloud of smoke over the western city of Leverkusen. Several people were still reported missing.
It took emergency services three hours to extinguish a fire at Chempark, where chemical companies Bayer and Lanxess are located, which erupted after the explosion at 9:40 am (07:40 GMT), park operator Currenta said.
“I think about the wounded and loved ones,” said the head of the chemical park Lars Friedrich. “We are still looking for the missing, but hopes of finding them alive are disappearing,” he added.
Police said five of the 31 wounded were so severely injured that they need intensive care.
“This is a tragic moment for the city of Leverkusen,” said Uwe Richrat, mayor of the city north of Cologne.
The area and adjacent roads were closed for most of the day.
Police ordered residents living nearby to stay indoors and close doors and windows in case toxic fumes emerge. Kurenta said local residents should also turn off air conditioning systems while they measure the air around the facility for possible toxic gases.
Friedrich of Chempark said it was unclear what caused the explosion that ignited the solvent tank.
“During the incident, the solvents burned out, and we do not know exactly what substances were thrown away,” added Friedrich. “We are studying this with the authorities, taking samples.”
Sirens and emergency alerts on the mobile app of the German Civil Protection Agency warned citizens of “extreme danger.”
Leverkusen is less than 50 kilometers (30 miles) from a region hit by a disastrous flood last week that killed at least 180 people.
According to its website, there are over 30 companies operating at the Chempark site in Leverkusen, including Covestro, Bayer, Lanxess and Arlanxeo.
In 2019, Bayer and Lanxess sold Chempark Currenta to Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets for a € 3.5 billion ($ 4.12 billion) venture. – Reuters