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Two confirmed killed, one missing and six seriously injured after huge explosion at BASF chemical plant in Germany

18 October 2016

An explosion at a chemical plant in western Germany on October 17 killed two, with another man confirmed missing. The blast happened at BASF's main site in Ludwigshafen at around 11.30am during work on a pipeline transporting chemicals and flammable liquids to the plant's northern harbour on the river Rhine, the company said.

The BASF site at Ludwigshafen - Shutterstock
The BASF site at Ludwigshafen - Shutterstock

At a news conference on October 18, BASF told journalists that the two people known to have died in the explosion were both members of BASF's own fire brigade. They were responding to a minor fire near the site's river harbour when the pipeline exploded.

One other person is still missing following the blast and six of the 25 people injured are still in intensive care, Ludwigshafen city official Dieter Feid said at the news conference.

"Things are not looking good for some of them," he said.

The resulting blaze took160 firefighters and emergency workers 10 hours to extinguish and forced BASF to shut down more than 20 facilities, including its two steam crackers which produce the basic hydrocarbon chemicals such as propylene and ethylene used to manufacture a wide range of plastics and other chemicals.

TV footage showed flames rising high into the air from the blast site and a massive column of black smoke. Residents in Ludwigshafen and neighbouring Mannheim were asked to remain inside and keep their doors and windows closed. Children were also kept inside at nurseries and schools, with local residents reporting breathing difficulties, according to the Rheinpfalz newspaper.

BASF said initial tests for contamination recorded "no elevated readings". Local police warned motorists in the area to avoid the towns of Oppau, Edigheim and Pfingstweide.

The BASF plant is the world's biggest chemical complex covering an area of ten square kilometres and employing 39,000 workers.

News of the explosion on October 17 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.


On October 19, divers at the BASF Ludwigshafen plant found a body, presumed to be that of the man reported missing after the explosion two days earlier. This brings the death toll to three, with six seriously injured and another 14 wounded to varying degrees.

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