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Germany

Ludwigshafen residents not in danger from BASF chemical plant explosion

Officials have said pollutants released by an explosion at a BASF plant did not endanger residents of surrounding areas. Police have also confirmed that a third body retrieved by divers was that of a missing sailor.

After reviewing levels of benzene in the air directly following Monday's blast at a BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen, officials said on Friday that the pollutants did not pose a threat to nearby residents.

The highest benzene value measured outside the accident site was always found to be below the acceptable level of 200 micrograms per cubic meter, Thomas Bienert, the medical director of the Rhineland-Palatinate state health department, said during a press conference.

Explosion bei BASF (Picture-Alliance/dpa/Einsatzreport Südhessen)

Officials say the levels of benzene in the air do not pose a health risk

The level was somewhat higher in the first few hours directly following the explosion and ensuing fire on Monday, but it was no longer detectable after 24 hours.

Officials explained that they extensively measured the presence of Benzene in the air as the carcinogen was "the most dangerous" and posed the highest heath risk to local residents.

Several citizens near the plant complained of eye and respiratory irritation after the blast. Bienert explained that the explosion caused pollutants to "surge," but winds eventually helped disperse and weaken the fumes.

Greenpeace Chemist Christiane Huxdorff told German news agency dpa that it was important for independent experts to examine the air measurement results.

"Fires can pose a particular risk of chlorinated hydrocarbons that are inadequately recorded at usual measuring sites," she said, adding that Greenpeace sent samples to an independent laboratory.

Third body identified

Police in Rhineland-Palatinate, the state where the giant BASF chemical plant is located, confirmed the identity of a third blast victim on Friday.

The deceased man was a Polish sailor who had been reported missing following the explosion, police said. Divers retrieved the victim on Wednesday from the bottom of a Rhine river harbor where the blast took place. Two BASF firefighters also died in the blaze, which injured around 30 others, according to BASF.

External company worked on pipeline

The explosion and fire on Monday occurred at a river harbor used to unload flammable liquids and liquid gas. It took firefighters 10 hours to extinguish the resulting blaze. Officials have yet to determine the cause of the blast.

The public prosecutor for Frankenthal, Hubert Ströber, said on Friday that an external company had been working on a pipeline prior to the incident. His office also launched an investigation into the explosion on suspicion of negligent homicide and negligent bodily harm.

rs/jm (dpa)

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