Huge explosion rocks German chemicals site, 1 dead, 16 injured

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The German chemicals Industrial Park where the blast occured.

A huge explosion on Tuesday morning rocked an industrial park housing several chemical companies in Germany’s western city of Leverkusen has left one person dead. Sixteen people suffered injuries in the blast and four others are missing.

The incident sent plumes of smoke billowing into the sky and prompted authorities to ask nearby residents to remain in their homes amid warnings of an “extreme threat”.

The huge explosion caused a fire at a fuel depot at Chempark, an industrial park for chemicals companies including Bayer and Lanxess, operator Currenta said.

In a statement, the city of Leverkusen said that the blast occurred in storage tanks for solvents. It said 16 people were injured, four of them seriously.

“We are deeply concerned about this tragic accident and the death of our employee,” the head of Chempark, Lars Friedrich, said in a written statement.

Currenta said it was not yet clear what had caused the explosion, which then developed into a fire. The fire was later extinguished.

Emergency alert

A large number of police officers, firefighters, helicopters and ambulances were deployed to the scene.

Meanwhile, emergency alerts on the German civil protection agency’s mobile phone app classified the explosion as an “extreme threat” and asked local residents to stay inside and keep windows and doors closed.

Currenta said people in nearby homes should also turn off air conditioning systems while it measured the air around the site for possible toxic gas.

Several nearby motorways were closed, and police said drivers should take detours to avoid the area.

More than 30 companies operate at the site, which is located very close to the banks of the Rhine river, according to its website. Bayer and Lanxess in 2019 sold Chempark operator Currenta to Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets for an enterprise value of 3.5 billion euros ($4.12bn).

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