UPDATE: One Dead, Four Missing at German Chemical Complex Explosion Declared ‘Extreme Threat’

A dark cloud of smoke rises above the chemical park in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. Firefighters from the site fire department are on duty. (Mirko Wolf/dpa via AP)

UPDATE: BERLIN (AP) – Company officials say a body has been recovered after an explosion at a German chemical plant. At least 16 people were injured and four remain missing following the accident in the western city of Leverkusen.

“We are deeply concerned about this tragic accident and the death of our employee,” the head of Chempark, Lars Friedrich, said in a written statement.

The city of Leverkusen said that the explosion at the Chempark site, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Cologne on the Rhine river, occurred in storage tanks for solvents.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

ORIGINAL STORY: BERLIN (AP) – An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies shook the German city of Leverkusen on Tuesday, sending a large black cloud rising into the air.

Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance classified the explosion as “an extreme threat” and asked residents to stay inside and keep windows and doors closed, German news agency dpa reported.

Operators of the Chempark site in Leverkusen, about 20 kilometers (13 miles) north of Cologne on the Rhine river, said the cause of the explosion was unclear.

They said on Twitter that firefighters and pollution detection vans had been deployed.

Police in nearby Cologne said they did not have any information on the cause or size of the explosion and were not aware of any injuries at this point, but that a large number of police and ambulances had been deployed to the scene. They asked all residents to stay inside and warned people from outside of Leverkusen to avoid the region.

They also shut down several nearby major highways.

A dark cloud of smoke rises above the Chempark in Leverkusen, Germany, Tuesday, July 27, 2021. After an explosion, fire brigade, rescue forces and police are currently in large-scale operation, the police explained.(Oliver Berg/dpa via AP)

Daily Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger reported that the explosion took place in the Buerrig neigbborhood at a garbage incineration plant of the chemical park.

The paper reported that the smoke cloud was moving in a northwestern direction toward the towns of Burscheid and Leichlingen. It said firefighters from all over the region had been called in to help extinguish the fire.

Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s biggest chemical companies. It has about 163,000 residents and borders Cologne, which is Germany’s fourth biggest city and has around 1 million inhabitants. Many residents work at Bayer, which is one of the biggest employers in the region.

The scene of the explosion, the chemical park, is located very close to the banks of the Rhine river.

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