German chemicals giant BASF said the two people who died after an explosion and subsequent fire at its flagship production complex at Ludwigshafen on Monday were both members of the site’s own fire brigade.
They were responding to a minor fire near the huge complex of plants’ river harbour on Monday morning when a pipe exploded that most likely contained propylene or ethylene, BASF told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday.
The resulting blaze took fire fighters 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 used to produce a wide range of plastics and other chemicals.
The harbour at which the explosion occurred serves as a terminal for taking in combustible fluids such as naphtha and methanol that are important for BASF’s supply of raw materials.
One person is still missing following the blast and is believed to be in the water. Six of the 25 people injured are still in intensive care, Ludwigshafen city official Dieter Feid said at the news conference.
BASF management board member Margret Suckale said the company was facing “big challenges” in supplying its customers after the blast cut off the supply of raw materials, but said its main concern was for the deceased, the injured and their families for the moment.
She said she could not yet say what the financial damage of the explosion would be, but said it would take some time to start up the steam crackers again once the area had been cleared.