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1 dead, 6 hurt in Germany chemical plant blast

1 dead, 6 hurt in Germany chemical plant blast
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Authorities say that one person was killed and at least six injured in an explosion at a facility belonging to chemical firm BASF in southwestern Germany. Another six people have yet to be accounted for.

The blast occurred on Monday morning at a river harbor in Ludwigshafen that is used to unload flammable liquids and liquefied gas. BASF executive Uwe Liebelt said a fire in a pipeline was followed by the blast.

Several people were missing after the explosion at the plant, the firm said, advising residents in parts of Ludwigshafen, where BASF is based, and Mannheim, on the other side of the Rhine river, were to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows closed. “Several people were injured. Some people are missing,” BASF said.

The blast, which occurred around 11:30 am (local time) triggered a huge fire, the global chemicals giant said in a statement. 

A large fire and a huge column of grey smoke could be seen rising from the site, a vast industrial complex with a harbour on the Rhine river.

Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the flames by 1900 IST while police had blocked off nearby roads, a reporter at the scene said.

“Emergency services from the whole region are on the scene to prevent the fire spreading to other parts of the plant,” Ludwigshafen city authorities said in a statement.

Meanwhile, local authorities have asked nurseries and schools to keep children indoors, but no evacuations have been ordered.

“We are still investigating the precise cause. The relevant authorities have been informed,” BASF said.

The site’s steam cracker units – used in a chemical procedure to produce lighter hydrocarbons – have been shut down for safety reasons, it added.

Ludwigshafen is a city of some 160,000 people located around 80 kilometres southwest of Frankfurt. City authorities said fire engines as well as a fireboat had been deployed to the scene.

On its Twitter account, Ludwigshafen added that some residents had complained of respiratory irritations.

An emergency hotline has been set up as well as an information tent.

The Landeshafen Nord site where the explosion took place is a harbour used for the transportation of combustible fluids and liquefied gases.

On its website, the company describes the site as a “very important for BASF’s supply of raw materials”, where more than 2.6 million tonnes are handled each year.

The goods are unloaded from ships into the production plants via a system of pipelines.

The company employs 36,000 people in Ludwigshafen.

BASF was also grappling with a second, smaller incident at its nearby Lampertheim plant where four people were injured in a gas explosion and had to be taken to hospital, DPA news agency reported.
That incident is also still being investigated.

BASF employs over 110,000 employees worldwide and with sales of more than 70 billion euros (USD 77 billion) last year. 
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