Germany: Tank Storage in Flames Two Dead and Several Missing in Explosion at Major German Chemical Site

Editor: MA Alexander Stark

A massive explosion occurred at the waste disposal centre of the chemical park operator Currenta in Leverkusen on 27 July. Black clouds of smoke could be seen over the city. At least two people were killed in the subsequent fire of a solvent tank.

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At around 9:40 a.m. CET, an explosion followed by a fire occurred in the tank storage area of the Bürrig waste disposal centre at Chempark Leverkusen.
At around 9:40 a.m. CET, an explosion followed by a fire occurred in the tank storage area of the Bürrig waste disposal centre at Chempark Leverkusen.
(Source: Public Domain / Unsplash)

Leverkusen/Germany — Dense, black clouds of smoke could be seen above the Leverkusen Chemical Park on Tuesday morning. According to initial findings, a severe explosion and a fire in a tank containing solvents occurred in the morning hours at the waste management centre of the chemical park operator Currenta. Extinguishing water had not left the premises.

The Federal Office for Disaster Control classified the event as “Warning Level: Extreme Danger”. Residents were asked to close windows and doors. According to eyewitness reports, the cloud continued to move over the city area. The tremor could still be felt many kilometres away: several stations of the Geological Service of North Rhine-Westphalia had measured the explosion, a seismologist said on Tuesday. Among others, it was also registered at a station in the Hespertal, about 40 kilometres north of Leverkusen.

Two Killed, at Least 16 injured

After the severe explosion, two missing employees were found dead, the operating company Currenta announced on Tuesday afternoon. Three other employees were still missing. At least 16 people were injured in the explosion and fire, two of them seriously. According to the company, the explosion had occurred for as yet unknown reasons at around 9.30 a.m. in the tank farm of the Bürrig waste disposal centre. Afterwards, there was a fire in the tank farm, which was extinguished around noon.

Numerous task forces of the plant fire brigade, police and air measurement vehicles were deployed. According to the fire brigade, initial air measurements by the environmental protection units in the north of Cologne showed around noon that there was currently no danger to the population. The measurements would be continued. Nevertheless, motorists were asked to keep vehicle windows closed and to turn off the air vents. Numerous motorways around Cologne and Leverkusen were closed for hours.

According to the city, a tank containing solvents was on fire after the explosion. "Firefighting efforts had to wait until a power line was disconnected from the grid. This has now been done. The extinguishing work is starting," the municipality announced at noon.

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.

The last major chemical accident occurred in Germany in 2016 at BASF in Ludwigshafen. At that time, leaked butene ignited because a worker from a subcontractor at the BASF port in Ludwigshafen had cut an incorrect pipeline. The butene caused a neighboring ethylene pipeline to explode. At the time, four firefighters and one worker died.

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