Explosion and fire at chemical plant in Tarragona

One person confirmed dead in nearby building damaged by shock wave

Fire at chemical plant in Tarragona January 14, 2020
Fire at chemical plant in Tarragona January 14, 2020 / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 14, 2020 07:15 PM

An explosion and a subsequent fire occured in an industrial estate in La Canonja near Tarragona, southern Catalonia, on Tuesday at 6.45pm local time.

One person was confirmed dead after a nearby building partially collapsed, as a result of the shock wave from the explosion.

At 10pm the medical services said eight people were injured, two with serious burns, while the fire service were still looking for one person believed to be missing on Wednesday early morning.

Ethylene Oxide

The incident occured in a chemical plant belonging to the company IQOXE. The Catalan home affairs minister Miquel Buch explained that there was an explosion in a tank of ethylene oxide which caused "a vertical column of smoke". This led to a second explosion at an industrial electricity transformer. 

Immediately after the incident the emergency services issued a "Plaseqcat" chemical alert. Via social media, authorities specifically warned the people of La Canonja town, La Pineda area in Vila-seca, Bonavista neighborhood in Tarragona, and Universitat Laboral in Tarragona to remain indoors and secure windows and doors. 

Beyond the immediate vicinity people were advised to stay inside as a preventative measure if they were feeling any discomfort, although the authorities reported there was no evidence of toxic pollution.

At around 9.30pm the advice to residents to stay indoors was lifted.

The fire service sent 20 units to the scene and confirmed that the fire was only within the industrial estate and hadn't spread to surrounding areas. At 10pm they expected to work on securing the site overnight as the situation was "stable, but not under control".

The Catalan president and vice president arrived at the coordination center near the site and the Catalan chief confirmed he had spoken with the Spanish president via telephone.

Travel Disruption

The train links between Tarragona and Reus, and between Tarragona and Port Aventura theme park, were disrupted due to the explosion and fire.

Local Rodalies lines R-13, R-14, R-15, R-16, R-16, RT-1 and RT-2 lines also experienced disruptions.

Traffic authorities advised drivers to avoid the N-340 and the C-31b in the surrounding area.