The explosion, whose origin is not yet known, left two people dead and eight injured in this city in Catalonia.
A Spanish Lubrizol? Tuesday, January 14, an explosion, followed by a fire, occurred in a chemical factory in Tarragona, a city in northeastern Spain. The accident occurred in the IQOXE (Ethylene Oxide Chemical Industries) complex. Franceinfo details what we know about this tragedy.
An explosion and a fire
The explosion, the causes of which are not yet known, took place in the factory just before 7 p.m. She was heard several kilometers around. Spanish media, including the daily El Pais *, Published videos of video surveillance showing the explosion, which caused a strong shock.
A muerto y seis heridos, dos de ellos críticos, y un desaparecido en una explosión e incendio en un polígono petroquímico de Tarragona. In video, the moment of the explosion captado por un camara de seguridad https://t.co/lrxojzZkdx pic.twitter.com/wB24XAaHlO
– EL PAÍS (@el_pais) January 14, 2020
Videos of large flames and columns of smoke have been circulating on social media. Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo relayed some of these images.
Primeras imágenes de la explosion de una planta petroquímica de Tarragona. Disconnects if hay heridos https://t.co/BOQ08XJCjp pic.twitter.com/E7vZutPGLS
– EL MUNDO (@elmundoes) January 14, 2020
The firemen were still trying to put out the fire on Wednesday afternoon, but the situation stabilized. "Materials are still burning and it has to cool down, which is why we cannot yet say that the fire is over"said the Regional Manager of the Interior in Catalonia, Miquel Buch, adding that the region had decreed two days of mourning in tribute to the victims.
According to the firefighters, around thirty vehicles were mobilized to contain the fire and notably cool a tank of ethylene oxide from the IQOXE factory.
Primeras imágenes del interior de la fábrica petroquímica que ha explosionado en Tarragona https://t.co/VOqAVbEcAj pic.twitter.com/TO5LNymABz
– EL MUNDO (@elmundoes) January 14, 2020
Two dead and eight injured
According to the latest emergency services report, the explosion left two people dead and eight injured, including two seriously burned.
The first victim died inside a building located in a town near the industrial park, which collapsed due to the shock wave, said civil defense. according to El Pais *, This fifties, father of two, was in this building two kilometers from the facilities.
Miquel Buch confirmed, Wednesday afternoon, the death of a second person, specifying that a body had been located under the rubble on the factory site, in La Canonja, on the outskirts of the port city of Tarragona.
Products used in the manufacture of plastics
No details were given at this stage on the products involved in the explosion, then the fire. Thehe general manager of IQOXE, Jose Luis Morlanes, said that his company's products are used for antifreeze liquids, dehumidifiers, detergents and cosmetics.
From a more general point of view, El Pais * recalls that the affected industrial complex is "the most important petrochemical center in southern Europe". For its part, El Mundo * specifies that "IQOXE is the only producer of ethylene oxide in Spain, with an installed capacity of 140,000 tonnes per year". The daily adds that "50% of this production is intended for the manufacture of Glycol, one of the main raw materials for the production of PET polymers", or plastics used in particular for packaging.
According to the National Research and Safety Institute for the Prevention of Accidents at Work and Occupational Diseases, ethylene oxide is a particular "extremely flammable gas" who is "toxic by inhalation".
Dreaded toxicity and lack of information
The lack of information concerning the explosion provoked the indignation of the residents. In La Vanguardia *, the deputy director of civil protection, Sergi Delgado, denounces the behavior of the company which, according to him, would not have followed the procedure provided in the event of an accident. "We had difficulty assessing the risks of a toxic cloud", he says. Without precise information, general confinement was therefore decreed.
However, relates El Pais *, the alarms to warn of a chemical accident did not sound in the neighborhoods and communes neighboring the industrial site. Civil protection called on residents to remain confined to their homes via social networks or by sending volunteers to the streets, which alerted the population with megaphones.
In total, the confinement concerned up to 300,000 people located in seven communes. But this measure was taken as "preventive", assures the Catalan Interior Advisor, who affirms that the sirens were not triggered because the risk was controlled and that the first analyzes showed that no toxic substance was present in the air. Local residents remain attentive to the health consequences of this industrial accident.
The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, offered to the Catalan regional president, Quim Torra, "all the support you need", adding to be "very attentive to the information which arrives on the fire". He assured that all the light would be shed on the circumstances of the accident, considering that it was a "very sensitive site of the country" and that this "petrochemical complex is one of the points where everything should work like clockwork".
* All sources for this article are in Spanish.