NAfter the explosion in the chemical park in Leverkusen, the operating company Currenta expects more deaths. “Unfortunately, we have to assume that we will not find the five missing people alive,” said Frank Hyldmar, Chairman of the Management Board of Currenta, at a press conference on Wednesday. Two dead had already been found after the explosion on Tuesday, in the accident 31 employees were injured, one of them seriously. “Our thoughts are with families and loved ones,” said Hyldmar.
Four of the still missing are employees of Currenta, one is employed by an external service provider. Of the two dead found so far, one worked for the chemical park operator. “We can only begin to assess what the relatives feel who are still missing. That cannot be put into words either, ”said Currenta CFO Wolfgang Homey. “As a company, we will be very close to the families and also look after the families.”
On the site of the hazardous waste incineration plant, three tanks containing production waste from chemical park customers exploded. There were solvents in the tanks. According to the Leverkusen fire brigade, there were no injuries outside the chemical park.
“It is risky to enter the scene of the accident”
The North Rhine-Westphalian State Environment Agency assumes after the explosion that there are “dioxin, PCB and furan compounds” that were carried into the surrounding residential areas via the cloud of smoke. According to information from the office, chlorinated solvents, among other things, were also stored in the affected tanks, a spokesman said on Wednesday. “We are therefore currently assuming that dioxin, PCB and furan compounds were carried into the surrounding residential areas via the cloud of smoke,” it said. The concentration in which this actually happened is currently still being investigated. The investigations are quite complex.
The question of concentration is crucial. “Dioxin, PCB and furan compounds are definitely associated with malformations in newborns of animals, less so in humans than environmental oestrogens or cancer-causing substances in humans,” said Daniel Dietrich, head of the human and environmental toxicology working group at the University of Konstanz , the German Press Agency. “But – and that is the big but – only in high concentrations. And that is not the case if the area in question is cleaned and decontaminated over time. “
The state environmental authority collects every single sample of soot that fell through precipitation in the urban area, said the managing directors of Currenta at the press conference. “The analyzes are still pending,” said Hyldmar.
The company has not yet been able to provide any information on the cause of the accident. The works fire brigade and the fire brigade in Leverkusen are still active to find the missing. The fire brigade uses drones for this purpose, among other things. “It is risky to enter the scene of the accident. We are working on the cause of the accident, but it is far too early to make statements, ”said Hyldmar. Only when there is no longer any danger can the fire specialists at the Cologne Criminal Police begin investigations into the cause of the explosion.
“That was a mission that also took off the shoes of seasoned professional fire fighters,” said Hermann Greven, the head of the Leverkusen fire department. Playgrounds are still closed in the neighboring districts of Leverkusen. The city also asks residents not to come into contact with soot, not to wear any marks into the apartments through their shoes and not to consume vegetables and fruit from the garden for the time being.
Currenta was also unable to make a statement on Wednesday about the damage to the system. “So far, we have only been able to assess this from a distance, I don’t want to speculate,” said Hans Gennen, the board member responsible for operations. The chemical waste from around 70 customers from the chemical park, including the pharmaceutical and agrochemical group Bayer, the plastics group Covestro and the specialty chemicals company Lanxess, is now being disposed of via disposal partners in the other facilities in the chemical park in Dormagen, Currenta said. “We’re running a replacement disposal facility,” said Gennen.