At least one person was killed and 16 injured after an explosion at a chemical park in the western German city of Leverkusen on Tuesday, the site’s operator said, with four people still missing.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the death of an employee,” Chempark operator Currenta said in a statement, adding that “rescue efforts continue at full speed” to find the four remaining workers.
The blast happened at around 09:40 am (0740 GMT) “for still unknown reasons”, it said.
The explosion could be heard far and wide and sent a thick column of black smoke into the air.
Germany’s NINA warning app sent an “extreme danger” alert to residents, urging them to close all doors and windows and keep the emergency numbers free as much as possible.
Currenta said the incident occurred at Chempark’s landfill and waste incineration area in Leverkusen’s Buerrig district, which is separate from the main industrial park that houses numerous chemical companies including Bayer, Lanxess and Evonik Industries.
Currenta said firefighters and rescue crews were at the scene, as well as pollution detection experts.
Police in the nearby city of Cologne tweeted that they were closing several motorways in the Leverkusen area because of “major damage.”
They urged drivers to steer clear of the area and told residents to move indoors “and close all windows and doors as a precaution.”
“We are at the scene with many police officers to clarify the situation. There are several injured,” police said.
Locals shared images on social media of the black cloud of smoke billowing into the air, with some saying their windows were rattled by the force of the explosion.