At least two people died, six severely injured and two more are missing after an explosion and fire Monday at chemicals maker BASF’s biggest production site in Germany, company officials said.
The explosion occurred on a supply line connecting a harbor and a tank depot on the Ludwigshafen site at around 11:20 local time, according to BASF, the world’s largest chemicals company.
A fire that broke out following the blast sent up plumes of smoke for hours, prompting BASF and the city of Ludwigshafen to order a shelter in place by urging residents in the surrounding area to avoid going outside and to keep their windows and doors shut.
Measurements taken in the area so far have indicated no risk from toxic fumes, BASF said.
“We deeply regret that employees died and several people were injured. Our sympathy is with the affected people and their families,” said Ludwigshafen site’s chief, Uwe Liebelt.
The company said it was unclear so far what caused the explosion.
As a result of the blast, the company shut down 14 facilities, including its two steam crackers, large units that make basic chemical components, for safety reasons and because the supply of raw materials ended up disrupted by the explosion.
The Ludwigshafen site, around 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Frankfurt, is the world’s largest chemical complex, covering an area of 10 square kilometers (four square miles) and employing 39,000 workers, according to BASF. It is on the Rhine river and receives many of its raw materials by ship.
The harbor at which the explosion occurred is a terminal for combustible fluids such as naphtha and methanol that are important for BASF’s supply of raw materials.
News of the explosion came less than two hours after BASF said four people suffered injuries in a gas explosion at its Lampertheim facility, a plant near Ludwigshafen that makes additives for plastics.