Spain chemical factory blast killed man two miles away – and second victim is found dead in debris

A one-ton sheet of steel was catapulted through a flat window, causing a ceiling to collapse on the victim

Chris Baynes
Wednesday 15 January 2020 17:36 GMT
Explosion in Spain triggers chemical emergency

A massive explosion at a petrochemicals factory in Spain killed a man at home two miles away after the blast flung a one-ton sheet of metal into the apartment above him.

The 59-year-old, named in local media as shopkeeper Sergio Millan, died on Tuesday when his ceiling collapsed, said authorities in the city of Tarragona.

Firefighters found the body of a second victim among the debris of the Iqoxe plant on Wednesday.

The blast injured eight other employees, two of them critically, and sparked a fire that was still burning 24 hours later.

Authorities said they had yet to remove the body of the second victim. “There is structural risk in the area and work is being done to stabilise the area and safely reach the victim,” said Catalonia’s interior department.

Officials are investigating the cause of what they described as a “chemical accident”.

Iqoxe chief executive Jose Luis Morlanes said the explosion occurred in a 20-ton tank of ethylene oxide in a part of the plant which had operated without incident since it opened in June 2017.

According to the company’s website, Iqoxe is Spain’s sole producer of ethylene oxide, a chemical compound used for making detergents, solvents and other products, as well as glycol, one of the main raw materials in the production of plastics.

The company, owned by Spain’s CL Grupo Industrial SA, said it had opened an internal investigation into the explosion.

“We deeply regret the loss of one of our co-workers and the suffering of those who are injured,” Mr Morlanes said.

The explosion reportedly flung a one-ton piece of metal through the window of flat, killing a man inside
The explosion reportedly flung a one-ton piece of metal through the window of flat, killing a man inside (EPA)

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s office said he was in touch with Catalan authorities and Madrid was ready to “provide the necessary support due to this serious event, which has caused several injuries and substantial material damage.”

The civil defence agency, which initially advised people nearby to stay indoors as a precaution following the blast, said air quality tests carried out Wednesday had not shown any risk.

Thirty firefighting crews worked through the night to combat the blaze, which caused thick columns of black smoke to rise into the air. The explosion itself could be seen from miles away, with residents of Tarragona – a port city 71 miles southwest of Barcelona – posting footage on social media.

Antonia Caballero, 65, who lives near the plant, was cleaning her house when the explosion occurred. She said: “I thought that the door at the front of the building had collapsed. I looked out to the window and I saw the flames.

“I went to the door and left right away. My sons called me. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

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