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Civil protection says chemical firm did not follow information protocols after explosion

IQOXE company insists it has fully cooperated with agency and fire service and has "done things well"

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15 January 2020 06:05 PM

by

ACN | Barcelona

The civil protection agency has accused the IQOXE chemical firm, whose plant near Tarragona was the site of Tuesday's explosion and subsequent fire, of not following the correct emergency communication protocols, which it says made evaluating the situation and alerting the local population more difficult. 

The agency said IQOXE did not inform it of the emergency according to the established protocols, which caused "initial uncertainty" and "a lack of information" that meant it took more than an hour to establish whether the smoke from the accident was toxic or not, and whether it was necessary to alert local residents.

"Without the initial information, about which firm it was, if there was a chemical hazard, about what had happened, without the information to decide whether to alert the local population and activate the warning sirens or not. The initial uncertainty and lack of information determines decision making," said the agency's deputy director, Sergi Delgado.

However, IQOXE denied the charge and insisted that it "did things well." According to its CEO, José Luis Morlanes, "we have been totally coordinated and have followed all instructions" from the fire service and the civil protection agency, and he added that "we have worked side-by-side with them and haven't had any criticism from anyone." 

The accident at IQOXE's plant in Tarragona's petrochemical industrial estate happened on Tuesday evening when a reactor tank of propylene oxide exploded. A further explosion and subsequent fire left two people dead and eight others injured, one of whom is in a critical condition with another whose condition is very serious.

A number of investigations have been launched into the incident. The civil protection agency is now looking into why it lacked the necessary information to evaluate the situation, while the company says it will also investigate the causes of the accident as soon as the fire service declares the building safe again.

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  • Firefighters assist one of the neighbors in the building hit by the piece of metal thrown off from the explosion at the chemical plant in southern Catalonia (by Núria Torres)

  • Firefighters assist one of the neighbors in the building hit by the piece of metal thrown off from the explosion at the chemical plant in southern Catalonia (by Núria Torres)

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