Leverkusen A devastating explosion occurs in a tank farm in the Chempark in Leverkusen. The sad result: at least two dead, several missing and many injured. Windows and doors should be kept closed in the vicinity.
A devastating explosion occurs in a tank farm in the Chempark in Leverkusen. The sad result: at least two dead, several missing and many injured.
Residents in the area should still keep windows and doors closed. Fruit and vegetables from the garden may not be consumed for the time being. It remains unclear whether and how many harmful substances were released.
At least two people have died in a devastating explosion at a waste incineration plant at Chempark Leverkusen. Several workers were still missing on Tuesday evening.
"The search for the missing continues at full speed. Unfortunately, the hope of finding them alive is dwindling visibly," Chempark manager Lars Friedrich said, according to the statement. The number of injured was given by the operator and by the police as 31.
Initially it was not exactly clear how many people are still being searched for after the accident. In the communication of the operator during the evening it said: "Five employees are still missing, the search for them continues at high pressure.“
Continued hope to find missing alive
"We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the death of an employee. Our special sympathy goes above all to the relatives, but also to the colleagues who worked with him," said Chempark Director Friedrich. These were difficult hours, many residents were afraid, Friedrich reported at a hastily arranged press meeting in the afternoon. There was hope that the missing persons would still be found alive.
Leverkusen's mayor, Uwe Richrath (SPD), spoke of a "tragic day" for the city with its more than 167,000 inhabitants, which is closely linked to the chemical industry. He himself had also felt the shock.
The residents of the Rhineland were also very worried about the incident because within a few weeks they had to look anxiously once again at the warning messages from the authorities. Recently, they had already experienced the flood disaster - in Leverkusen, for example, a clinic had to be temporarily evacuated. Now another danger, again from the sky.
Explosion could be heard ten kilometers away
According to the operator, the huge explosion, which according to witnesses could still be heard within a radius of a good ten kilometers, occurred at around 9:30 a.m. in the tank farm of the Bürrig waste disposal center. The cause was initially unclear. A huge cloud of smoke rose. The tremor was so violent that even several stations of the Geological Service of North Rhine-Westphalia were able to measure it. Among others, it had been registered at a station in the Hespertal - about 40 kilometers away.
After the explosion, the tank farm with solvents burned for hours before the fire was under control and largely extinguished by midday. "The extinguishing work had to wait until a power line was disconnected from the grid," the city explained. Even the fire department in Dortmund, some 60 kilometers away, warned of possible odor nuisance.
Residents were asked as a precaution to seek closed rooms and to keep windows and doors closed. The city also temporarily closed nearby playgrounds. Because of the possible emission of pollutants, residents were also warned against eating fruit and vegetables from their own gardens. According to the State Environmental Agency (LANUV), it was not yet possible to assess whether "relevant substances" could be found in the precipitation after the fire.
No danger for the population
Numerous task forces from the plant fire department, the police, and air measurement vehicles were deployed during the accident. According to the fire department, initial air measurements by the environmental protection units in the north of Cologne showed that there was no danger to the population. The measurements would be continued. Nevertheless, motorists in the region were initially asked to keep vehicle windows closed.
Due to the "major damage situation", numerous highways were temporarily closed. The full closure affected the Leverkusen-West interchange, the A1 between the Leverkusen and Cologne-North interchanges, the A3 between the Leverkusen interchange and the Langenfeld interchange, and the A59 between the Monheim-Süd interchange and the Leverkusen-West interchange, according to the responsible Autobahn GmbH. Work on the immediately adjacent construction site of the Leverkusen Rhine bridge was also stopped immediately. Even the Rhine ferry "Fritz Middelanis" suspended operations between Cologne-Langel and Leverkusen-Hitdorf for several hours.
According to the company, Chempark is one of the largest chemical parks in Europe. More than 70 companies are located at the three sites in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.
Original text: Ulli Brünger, Yuriko Wahl-Immel and Erich Reimann, dpa
Translation: Mareike Graepel