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Germany: Deadly blast hits Leverkusen chemical site

One person has died and at least 16 are injured after an explosion rocked a chemical plant in Leverkusen. Operators of the site say it’s not yet clear what caused the blast.

A blast followed by a fire hit an industrial park in the western German city of Leverkusen Tuesday, leaving one dead and several injured.

Four people are missing.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic accident and the death of an employee,” Chempark site operator Currenta said in a statement, adding that “rescue efforts continue at full speed” to find the workers still unaccounted for.

Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance classified the explosion as “an extreme threat,” according to Germany’s dpa news agency.

Police and ambulances at the scene of the blast in LeverkusenA large number of emergency services responded to the blast

Currenta said the explosion occurred at a tank farm that is part of its facility and that the fire had been put out. It added that a search was underway for four employees who were missing. Sixteen others were injured in the blast, four of them seriously.

Chempark urged residents of Leverkusen, which lies 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Cologne, to “go indoors and keep doors and windows closed.”

Emergency services describe ‘major damage’

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper reported the incident occurred at a garbage incineration plant in the chemical park, located in the Bürrig neighborhood.

The explosion sent plumes of black smoke into the skyResidents said the blast was heard far and wide

Police in Cologne tweeted that they were closing several motorways because of “major damage.”

Firefighters and pollution detection vehicles have been dispatched to the scene.

Residents said the blast could be heard from some distance, with some reporting that the force of the explosion had rattled their windows.

It is unclear what caused the blast.

Bayer, one of Germany’s largest chemical manufacturers, is headquartered in Leverkusen, a city of around 163,000 residents.

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