Several missing, injured in explosion at BASF plant in Germany

Blast was caused by work on a pipeline

Gulf News

FRANKFURT: Several people were missing and others were injured after an explosion Monday at a chemical plant at BASF’s headquarters in western Germany, the firm said, advising local residents to stay indoors.

The blast, which occurred around 11:30am (0930 GMT) and triggered several fires, was caused by work on a pipeline, BASF said in a statement.

“Several people were injured. Some people are missing,” it said.

Images showed a large fire and a huge plume of grey smoke rising from the site.

“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.

The company said residents in Ludwigshafen and nearby Mannheim should remain inside and shut doors and windows.

Local authorities have also ordered nurseries and schools to keep children indoors.

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

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

Ludwigshafen is located around 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Frankfurt. The authorities in Ludwigshafen said fire engines and 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, BASF 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.

BASF is a global giant in the chemical industry, employing over 110,000 employees worldwide and with sales of more than 70 billion euros (Dh283 billion; $77 billion) last year.