BERLIN – Officials said on Wednesday they had little hope of finding five missing workers alive, a day after an explosion in an industrial park for chemical companies in West Germany that killed at least two people and injured 31 others.
Tuesday’s explosion at the waste management facility of the Chempark site sent a large black cloud of smoke into the air and ignited a fire that took firefighters nearly four hours to put out. The industrial park is located in the city of Leverkusen, near Cologne.
“Yesterday’s events shocked us all,” said Frank Hyldmar, CEO of Currenta, which operates the Chempark Industrial Park.
“At least two people lost their lives,” he said. “Five are still missing. We no longer have much hope of finding them alive. ”
He added that one of the 31 injured was still in a life-threatening condition.
The cause of the explosion is not yet known. Police are expected to begin their investigation in the coming days.
According to Currenta, the explosion was linked to storage tanks filled with solvents.
Due to the thick smoke, authorities on Tuesday told residents to stay indoors and close several major highways for hours. City officials also warned people not to let children play outside, use outdoor pools or eat fruits and vegetables from their backyards for the next few days.
The environmental authority for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Leverkusen is located, said on Wednesday that the smoke from the explosion contained dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyl and furan compounds. However, it could not yet say how strong the concentration of these chemicals was, dpa reported.
Currenta said that pollution measurements so far have not detected any increased levels of hazardous substances in the air.
Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s largest chemical companies and one of the largest employers in the region. The city has about 163,000 residents, many of whom work for Bayer.
The industrial park is located near the Rhine River.