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Divers find third body after blast at BASF chemical plant

A third victim of the deadly BASF plant explosion has been retrieved by divers in a Ludwigshafen river harbor. Authorities are working to identify the body, while the cause of the blast remains unknown.

The death toll from Monday's blast at the BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen rose to three, reported police on Wednesday.

Divers uncovered a "male corpse" at the bottom of the BASF Rhine river harbor where the blast took place, Rhineland-Palatinate police reported on Twitter.

Authorities will conduct an autopsy to definitively determine whether the body is that of a sailor who was reported missing following Monday's explosion, a police spokeswoman said.

"Unfortunately, we believe our fears have become a sad reality and we have a third casualty to lament," said BASF board member Margret Suckale said in a statement.

The BASF explosion on Monday killed two members of BASF's fire service and injured over 20 people, six of them seriously.

Watch video 00:28

Explosion at BASF chemical plant

Ongoing investigation into cause

An investigation into the cause of the explosion is still ongoing, although officials swiftly ruled out the prospect of terrorism

The prosecutors' office in the nearby town of Frankenthal launched an investigation on suspicion of negligent homicide, negligent bodily harm and negligence resulting in an explosion. They also ordered autopsy reports.

The BASF firefighters were caught up in Monday's blaze after responding to a small fire near the docks where ships unload highly flammable liquids and liquefied gases into a system of pipes.

Firefighters battled the blaze for 10 hours before it was put out. During the incident, BASF was forced to shut down 20 facilities, including two steam crackers, which produce basic hydrocarbon chemicals used to manufacture a wide range of plastics and other chemicals.

Authorities gave the all-clear to nearby residents on Tuesday evening after asking them to remain indoors with their windows closed. The city of Ludwigshafen reported that some complained of respiratory irritations following the blast.

Monday's incident came just two years after Ludwigshafen was shaken by a devastating gas explosion near the BASF chemical plant. That blast killed one excavation worker and injured 20 other people, severely damaging nearby houses.

rs/msh  (AP, AFP, dpa)

 

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