BERLIN – Rescue teams in western Germany searched for five missing workers in a chemical enterprise industrial park on Wednesday, a day after an explosion killed at least two people and injured 31 others.
The Tuesday 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 extinguish. The industrial park is located in the city of Leverkusen, near Cologne.
Currenta CEO, who operates the Chempark Industrial Park, said there was little hope for the five missing workers – four Currenta employees and one outside contractor.
“We have to assume that the missing people can no longer be found alive,” Frank Hyldmar told reporters in Leverkusen. He added that one of the 31 injured was still in a life-threatening condition.
Police said on Wednesday that the investigation into the cause of the explosion would begin on Thursday, the German news agency dpa reported. So far, it has appeared that 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.
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.