Two dead, five still missing after explosion rocks German chemicals site

A view of smoke billowing from the chemical industry area of 'Chempark' in Leverkusen, Germany, 27 July 2021. [EPA-EFE/SASCHA STEINBACH]

Two people are dead and five are still missing as hope for their survival wanes after an explosion rocked an industrial park in the western German city of Leverkusen on Tuesday (27 July) morning, sending dark plumes of smoke into the sky.

A fire at the Chempark site, which includes chemicals companies Bayer and Lanxess had been extinguished after an explosion at 9.40 am local time, park operator Currenta said. The company has since tinged its logo black in commemoration.

“My thoughts are with the injured and relatives. The search for the missing persons continues at full speed. Unfortunately, the hope of finding them alive is fading visibly,” said Chempark manager Lars Friedrich on Tuesday night.

A last causality count on Tuesday night counts 31 injured,  five of them are in intesive care, one of which is in mortal danger. Five people are still missing and two dead, according to a press release by Currenta.

A spokesperon of Currenta told EURACTIV that the most recent victim found had not been part of the five missing people reported throughout the day.

Police asked residents living nearby to stay indoors and shut doors and windows. Currenta said they should also turn off air conditioning systems while it measured the air around the site for possible toxic gases.

Currenta said it was not clear what had caused the explosion and subsequent fire. Sirens and emergency alerts on the German civil protection agency’s mobile phone app warned citizens of “extreme danger.”

Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire late afternoon on Tuesday 27 after four hours of concerted efforts, as the investigation into the cause of the tragedy is ongoing.

Leverkusen is less than 50 km (30 miles) from the region that was hit last week by catastrophic floods which left at least 180 people dead.

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

More than 30 companies operate at the Chempark site in Leverkusen, including Covestro, Bayer, Lanxess and Arlanxeo, 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.
[Edited by Josie Le Blond]

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