BASF Ludwigshafen explosion and fire kills one, six still missing

17 October 2016 16:34 Source:ICIS News

Screenshot-Youtube-Ulli Z

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LONDON (ICIS)--German chemical major BASF said on Monday that one person had been killed as a result of the explosion and fire at its flagship Ludwigshafen site, while six are still missing and several have been injured.

The explosion and fire on a pipeline at the chemical site’s northern harbour caused the closure of its two steam crackers and could potentially affect more plants, the company said earlier in the day.

“According to the latest information we have, one person died as a result of today’s fire in the North Harbour at BASF in Ludwigshafen. Six people suffered serious injuries, several others received light injuries. The injured are being treated in local hospitals. Six other people are still missing,” said BASF.

The company added that following the fire transport employees at the site’s gate 15 – the closest to the fire’s location – were evacuated. The gate currently remains closed.

As a consequence of the large plume of smoke following the fire, authorities in the area have recommended residents to avoid staying outdoors and keep doors and windows closed.

“We are deeply saddened that one employee has died and several have been injured. Our deepest sympathy lies with the affected people and their families,” said Uwe Liebelt, site manager at Ludwigshafen.

BASF is in the process of shutting down its steam crackers and other plants at Ludwigshafen following the fire, a spokesperson for the chemicals major said earlier on Monday.

A separate company source said that naphtha imports had been halted and derivatives at the facility had also been impacted by the blast.

"Today, October 17, at 11:30 there was an explosion at BASF in Ludwigshafen at the North Harbor during work on a pipeline, which resulted in fires," the company said in a statement.

"Several people were injured. Some people are still missing. All emergency services are at the scene. This resulted in a highly visible cloud of smoke. Residents in the relevant areas of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim are asked to stay indoors and close door and windows.

"For safety reasons, the steamcrackers and other plants at the site are being shutdown. This will result in flaring," BASF said.

The exact cause of the incident is being investigated and the relevant authorities have been informed, the company said, stating that more information would follow later.

BASF’s Ludwigshafen site has two steam crackers with a total capacity of 620,000 tonnes/year.

Unverified footage posted online shows a large plume of smoke originating at a loading bay at the facility's northern site.

The company’s own fire department and the authorities are investigating the accident, a separate BASF spokesperson said in an earlier telephone conversation.

“Our fire brigades are on site trying to find out what happened. We are investigating possible causes.”

An information booth for local residents is being set up at Gate 11, BASF said.

Additional reporting by Nel Weddle, Heidi Finch and Graeme Paterson

Pictured above: the fire on Monday at BASF's Ludwigshafen site northern harbour
Source: Unverified footage from YouTube user Ulli Z

By Jonathan Lopez