Chemical emergency alert activated in northeastern Spain after explosion

Cheryl Sanders
January 16, 2020

Tarragona is located 115 kilometres (71 miles) southwest of Barcelona, the regional capital of Spain's Catalonia region.

Hundreds of firefighters battled through the night to try and contain the blaze which erupted just before 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

At the same time local roads were closed to traffic and rail services were interrupted, although normal service was resumed between Tarragona-Reus and Port Aventura shortly afterwards.

Following the explosion, around 24 emergency vehicles rushed to the scene and the Catalan fire brigade said it had rescued three injured people who were being attended by emergency services.


Catalan Interior Minister Miguel Buch confirmed the fatality occurred when part of a house near the chemical plant in the Tarragona province of northeast Spain collapsed following the blast and came down on the person inside. At around 2 a.m., for safety reasons, they suspended the search for the missing worker.

Several people are injured, with four being treated for "major burns", local officials say.

The cause of the blast at the IQOXE facility - which specialises in the production of ethylene oxide, glycol and propylene oxide - was not immediately known.

"We didn't know what was happening!"


Residents added they saw "a ball of fire" across the sky after the accident at the Quimicas del Oxido de Etileno (IQOXE) chemical plant in Tarragona. I went to the door and left right away, " she said. "I thought I was going to have a heart attack".

"The (emergency) protocols were not followed", Sergi Delgado told Catalan radio RAC1, saying IQOXE had not provided the necessary information for emergency workers to evaluate the situation and about whether there was a toxic cloud.

Although firefighters said the fire caused by the explosion was under control, the blaze is expected to continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning.

Spain's civil protection authority insisted that no toxic substances had been detected in the surrounding area.


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