One dead, six missing after German chemical plant explosions

Residents of Ludwighshafen urged to stay indoors after incidents at BASF facilities

A fire blazes on the premises of the chemical company BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, on Monday. Photograph: According to the company, at least one person has been killed, six other people are still missing and at least six were injured. The cause of the explosion is yet to be cleared. Photograph: EPA/Einsatzreport Südhessen

A fire blazes on the premises of the chemical company BASF in Ludwigshafen, Germany, on Monday. Photograph: According to the company, at least one person has been killed, six other people are still missing and at least six were injured. The cause of the explosion is yet to be cleared. Photograph: EPA/Einsatzreport Südhessen

 

Residents of the Germany city of Ludwighshafen were urged to stay indoors on Monday after explosions at BASF chemical plants left at least one dead, seven injured and six missing.

Officals at BASF, one of the world’s largest chemicals conglomerates, insisted there was no terrorist link to the incidents that appeared to involve supply pipes to the facilities.

The most serious incident occured at about 11.30am on Monday when a fire broke out at the main Ludwigsburg plant, 80km south of Frankfurt, the cause of which remains unclear.

A loud explosion occured shortly after the company’s own fire brigade arrived at the site to deal with the blaze. Aerial images of the main BASF site showed huge balls of flame and plumes of black smoke rising and drifing into the atmosphere.

Company officials insisted no dangerous chemicals had been released into the atmosphere as a result of the explosion. At an afternoon press conference Uwe Liebelt, a BASF plant manager, confirmed one fatality, declined to speculate about the fate of the six missing employees and said it was a “sad day” for the company.

“Our thoughts are with the dead person and the relatives,” said Mr Liebelt, expressing hope that the 100-strong fire brigade, after bringing the blaze under control by Monday afternoon, would have extinguished it entirely by evening.

Eye witnesses in the nearby city of Ludwigshafen said they heard a loud bang that caused windows to rattle across the city. City officials said the blaze could lead to odours and heavy haze and urged residents to stay indoors.

Schools and childcare facilities were instructed to keep children indoors until further notice.

On Twitter, Ludwigshafen officials said some local people had complained of breathing difficulties. As a precautionary measure after the accidents, BASF wound down production at its central facility.

Spread over 10 square kilometres, employing 40,000 people, it is the world’s largest chemical facility. Hours before the major accident, at the central plant’s northern harbour that deals with flammable fluids and high-pressure liquid gases, another fire reported at a nearby, secondary, facility left four injured.

The two fires within hours of each other have raised fresh questions about the safety record of BASF, which has been bBased for decades in the densely-populated Rhineland-Palatinate region. Locals say minor incidents are part of daily life.

The last major incident at the plant occured two years ago a massive explosion in a high-pressure gas pipe claimed two lives and left 22 injured.