2 dead ,several missing and injured in BASF German chemical plant blast

Ludwigshafen, Germany,Oct18: 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.

At least two people died and six were severely injured on Monday in an explosion and fire at chemicals maker BASF’s biggest production site in Germany, the company said.

Two people are still missing, BASF said.

The explosion occurred on a supply line connecting a harbor and a tank depot on the Ludwigshafen site at around 1120 local time (0920 GMT), according to BASF, the world’s biggest chemicals company.

Following the fire prompted BASF and the city of Ludwigshafen to urge 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,” the Ludwigshafen site’s chief, Uwe Liebelt, said in a statement.

The company said it was unclear so far what caused the explosion. BASF also said it could not say what financial impact the explosion might have.

It 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 was disrupted by the blast.

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.
The blast, which occurred around 11.30 am (0930 GMT) and triggered a huge fire, happened during work on a pipeline, the global chemicals giant said in a statement.

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

A large fire and a huge column of grey smoke could be seen rising from the site, a vast industrial complex with a harbour on the Rhine river.

Firefighters were still trying to extinguish the flames by 1330 GMT, while police had blocked off nearby roads, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

“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 asked nurseries and schools to keep children indoors, but no evacuations have been ordered.

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

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

Ludwigshafen is a city of some 160,000 people located around 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Frankfurt.

City authorities said fire engines as well as 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, the company 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.

The company employs 36,000 people in Ludwigshafen.

BASF was also grappling with a second, smaller incident at its nearby Lampertheimplant where four people were injured in a gas explosion and had to be taken to hospital, DPA news agency reported.

 News of the explosion came less than two hours after BASF said four people were injured in a gas explosion at its Lampertheim facility, a plant near Ludwigshafen that makes additives for plastics.

That incident is also still being investigated.

BASF employs over 110,000 employees worldwide and with sales of more than 70 billion euros ($77 billion) last year.
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 located on the Rhine river and receives many of its raw materials by ship.
In the company’s deadliest incident to date, nearly 600 people were killed in 1921 in an explosion at an ammonia plant near Ludwigshafen.
In 1948, 200 people died and more than 3,800 were injured when a rail tanker exploded, also at the Ludwigshafen complex.