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World

AFP
October 17, 2016
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Several missing, injured in German chemical plant blast

Several missing, injured in German chemical plant blast

Ludwigshafen, Germany: 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.

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.

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.

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.

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