D.he bang of the explosion could still be heard for miles, and the cloud of smoke that rose afterwards could also be seen from other cities: There was an explosion in the chemical park in Leverkusen on Tuesday morning – for a “previously unknown cause”, as the chemical park operator Currenta initially announced. According to Currenta, the explosion did not happen on the core area of the chemical park, but in the area of the landfill and waste incineration. After the explosion, a tank farm caught fire. The fire was extinguished late at noon.
16 people were injured in the accident, two of them seriously. Initially, the city had spoken of four seriously injured. The chemical park operator announced in the afternoon that a missing employee had been found dead, four more were still missing. “We are deeply affected by this tragic accident and the death of an employee,” said the manager of the chemical park, Lars Friedrich. “We are doing everything we can to control the situation. We still have a dangerous situation,” said Friedrich in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
On the site of the hazardous waste incineration plant, three tanks containing production waste from chemical park customers exploded. Solvents burned, announced the chemical park operator. After the explosion, first a white and then a black mushroom cloud rose, and the wind caused the smoke column to move towards Bergisches Land. “We do not have a precise analysis of the cloud at the moment. We have to ask for patience, that’s why we haven’t withdrawn the warning, ”said Friedrich.
The fire brigade advised residents to keep windows and doors closed and to go into buildings because of the smoke. There were also warning messages about the smoke via the NINA app for the nearby cities of Wermelskirchen, Burscheid and Leichlingen – residents of Solingen were also informed about possible odor pollution. In some districts in Leverkusen, playgrounds are now being closed as a precaution. Residents who have fruit in the garden should wash it off before consuming it.
“Tragic day for Leverkusen”
“It is a tragic day for Leverkusen,” said Leverkusen’s Lord Mayor Uwe Richrath (SPD). The city is closely rooted with the chemical industry, in almost every family there is someone who works or has worked in the chemical park. According to Currenta, around 50 to 60 employees are on average every day in the area of the hazardous waste facility, the landfill and the communal sewage treatment plant.
This area is north of the Leverkusen motorway junction, where the A1, A59 and A3 motorways intersect. The actual chemical park is located south of the motorway. After the explosion, the police initially blocked the A1 in both directions, and traffic jams also occurred on the other motorways on Tuesday.
Because a power line was also damaged by the explosion, Currenta also considered the power supply in the chemical park to be unsecured for a short time. “We have had our customers’ production cut back so that electricity consumption goes down,” said Friedrich. Customers in the chemical park include the pharmaceutical and agrochemical company Bayer and the specialty chemicals company Lanxess. The employees from administrative areas were therefore sent home so that there would be no more chaos in the location in the event of a power failure. “There was no evacuation of the site because of the event, but because of the power supply,” said Friedrich.
When the cause of the accident was clarified, it remained open at first. The main focus of the plant fire brigade is currently the search for the missing. Only then could the tanks be examined.