BERLIN (Associated Press) – On Wednesday, the day after the explosion killed at least two people and injured 31 people, a rescue team in western Germany searched for five missing workers in the industrial park of a chemical company.
A waste management facility at the Chempark site exploded on Tuesday, releasing a large cloud of black smoke into the air and igniting a fire. It took nearly four hours for firefighters to put it out. The industrial park is located in Leverkusen, close to Cologne.
The CEO of Currenta, who runs the Chempark industrial park, said that the five missing workers—four Currenta employees and an external contractor—have little hope.
Frank Helderma told reporters in Leverkusen: “We must assume that the missing person is no longer alive.” He added that of the 31 injured, one person is still in a life-threatening condition.
According to the German news agency dpa, the police said on Wednesday that an investigation into the cause of the explosion would begin on Thursday. So far, the explosion appears to be related to a storage tank full of solvent.
Due to heavy smoke, the authorities told residents on Tuesday to stay indoors and close several major highways for several hours. City officials also warned people not to let their children play outside, use the outdoor swimming pool, or eat fruits and vegetables in their backyard for the next few days.
The environmental authority of North Rhine-Westphalia, where Leverkusen is located, said on Wednesday that the smoke from the explosion contained dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and furan compounds. However, according to dpa reports, it is not yet possible to say how strong the concentration of these chemicals is.
Leverkusen is the location of Bayer, one of Germany’s largest chemical companies and one of the largest employers in the region. The city has approximately 163,000 residents, many of whom work for Bayer.
The industrial park is close to the Rhine.