An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies shakes the German city of Leverkusen, sending a large black cloud rising into the air. At least 16 people are injured and five remain missing.
Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance classifies the explosion as “an extreme threat” and asks residents to stay inside, turn off ventilation systems and keep windows and doors closed, German news agency dpa reports.
The city of Leverkusen says in a statement that the explosion at the Chempark site, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Cologne on the Rhine river, occurred in storage tanks for solvents. It says four people are severely injured and 12 less seriously. Five people are missing.
Currenta, the company operating the chemical park, says the explosion happened at 9:40 a.m. at the storage tanks of their waste management center and then developed into a fire.
“Sirens were operated to warn residents and warning alerts were sent,” Currenta says in the statement.
Police in nearby Cologne said a large number of officers, firefighters, helicopters and ambulances from across the region had been deployed to the scene. They asked all residents to stay inside and warned people from outside of Leverkusen to avoid the region.
They also shut down several nearby major highways.
Daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that the smoke cloud was moving in a northwestern direction toward the towns of Burscheid and Leichlingen.
Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s biggest chemical companies. It has about 163,000 residents and borders Cologne, which is Germany’s fourth biggest city and has around 1 million inhabitants. Many residents work at Bayer, which is one of the biggest employers in the region.
The chemical park is located very close to the banks of the Rhine river.
Currenta has three facilities in the region. More than 70 companies are based at the locations in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.