Residents Told Not to Eat From Gardens, Toxic Soot Concerns Follow Chemical Facility Blast

Residents of Leverkusen, Germany, were told not to eat from gardens because of toxic soot concerns after an industrial park explosion on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

City officials also asked residents to stay inside until the late afternoon and warned people from outside of Leverkusen to avoid the region. They later warned people to not let children play outside or use their pools for a few days. In a few days, experts will be able to tell how toxic the soot is and guide residents as needed.

The explosion left one person dead, 31 injured and four missing. Police said that five of the injured are in intensive care. They didn't release any details on their identities, the age of the dead person and the injured because not all family members had been informed yet.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Leverkusen Officials: Don't Eat From Garden
City officials told residents of Leverkusen, Germany, to not eat from their gardens because of toxic soot in the air. Above, smoke rises from a landfill and waste incineration area at the Chempark industrial park on Tuesday following an explosion in Leverkusen's Buerrig district. Roberto Pfeil/Getty Images

The explosion at the waste management facility of Chempark, an industrial park for chemical companies, sent a large black cloud into the air. It took firefighters almost four hours to extinguish the fire that took hold after the explosion.

Germany's Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance initially classified the incident as "an extreme threat." Later on Tuesday, however, the Cologne fire department tweeted that measurements of the air's pollution "do not show any kind of abnormality." It said the smoke had gone down but it would continue to measure the air for toxins.

The city of Leverkusen said in a statement that the explosion occurred in storage tanks for solvents.

"We are deeply concerned about this tragic accident and the death of our employee," the head of Chempark, Lars Friedrich, told reporters in Leverkusen. "We are doing everything to get this situation under control as quickly as possible—we know that the people of Leverkusen are very concerned."

Currenta, the company operating the chemical park, said the explosion happened at 9:40 a.m. and then developed into a fire. They said three big tanks were affected by the explosion, but that it was too early to know the cause of the explosion.

"Sirens were operated to warn residents and warning alerts were sent," Currenta said in the statement.

Police in nearby Cologne said a large number of officers, firefighters, helicopters and ambulances from across the region had been deployed to the scene. They also shut down several nearby major highways for several hours.

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 chemical park is located very close to the banks of the Rhine river.

Currenta has three facilities in the region. More than 70 different companies are based at the locations in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.

The mayor of Leverkusen, Uwe Richrath, called the blast "a tragic moment for Leverkusen."

"It was a huge detonation felt in all over the entire city," he said. "I hope the four missing people are still alive."

Leverkusen Officials: Don't Eat From Gardens
Emergency vehicles stand not far from an access road to the Chempark industrial park, over which a dark cloud of smoke is rising, in Leverkusen, Germany, after Tuesday's chemical plant explosion. Oliver Berg/Associated Press