A man who was in critical condition after an explosion at a chemical plant in northeastern Spain died, bringing the death toll to three.
Another victim of the massive explosion in the port city of Tarragona is being treated for severe burns and remains in serious condition at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona.
The explosion took place Tuesday night inside an industrial zone where the petrochemical companies operate large facilities. The research points to a 20-ton reactor tank inside a plant that produces ethylene oxide, a flammable gas used to make plastics and detergents.
The shock wave sends the reactor cover 2.5 kms
After the explosion, a reactor cover was sent flying by the force of the shock wave. The one-ton metal piece, which measures 122 by 165 centimeters, hit a residential building in Torreforta more than 2.5 kilometers away, killing a 59-year-old man inside his home.
One of the victims is a man who was sitting inside his house, two kilometers from the accident site. Firefighters have located a piece of metal of a ton that flew through the air by the force of the explosion and crashed into the apartment just above the victim, which was crushed by falling debris.
The second victim is a factory worker who was reported missing just after the explosion, which caused a fire that firefighters worked all night to contain. The worker was found dead Wednesday morning.
Firefighters are now working to empty the oxide tank “to reduce the risk in the surrounding area,” said fire crew chief Albert Ventosa.
The Catalan civil protection agency said the company, Iqoxe, did not initially notify the authorities about the accident, and that it worried citizens who called after 6.38 on Tuesday afternoon.
“We made a round of calls to chemical companies and saw images of security cameras. We could see that something was happening, but at the beginning we could not say what it was, ”explains Sergio Delgado, deputy director of the Catalan civil protection services. “The protocols stipulate that the first thing a company should do is alert [the authorities]. “
“Can you imagine a plant with an explosion and unable to locate five colleagues? It’s a very difficult situation, “Iqoxe CEO José Luis Morlanes said in a statement to the media.
This lack of warning could lead to sanctions, Civil Protection sources said, noting that an investigation is underway to clarify the facts of the case and determine if the company’s communication channels were affected by the explosion. “These early warnings are one of the weak points of the system,” Delgado admits.
The civil protection agency activated an emergency plan at 6.58 p.m., about 20 minutes after the explosion. Firefighters accessed the plant at 7.10 p.m. and at 7.35 p.m. it was determined that there was no risk of a toxic cloud outside the factory.
“The plan stipulates that until there is certainty of a chemical risk, the sirens will not be activated. That’s why it wasn’t done, “says Delgado.
But before that, at 7.15pm, the agency had asked more than 300,000 residents in seven nearby municipalities to remain indoors as a preventive measure. Ten minutes later, this order was lifted in all the nearest cities, except in two.
Nearby residents reported that they were confused by the fact that they were told to remain indoors but did not listen to sirens that indicated that an emergency system had been activated by chemical accident, in an area where people are accustomed to performing Annual drills to prepare for such eventuality.
English version of Susana Urra.