An explosion at a Total petrochemical plant in Carling in north-eastern France has killed two people and wounded at least six others. Several people may still be trapped under rubble, officials say.
AFP - A blast at a Total petrochemicals plant in eastern France killed two people, injured six and may have left several others buried under rubble on Wednesday, officials and the firm said.
"Several people are believed to still be buried in the debris," a local official said, while the oil giant said that there was no risk of pollution after the blast at the plant in Carling near the German border.
A score of fire engines and 50 firefighters were sent to the plant after the blast in a steam-cracking furnace which damaged equipment but did not cause a fire, officials said.
"The accident happened during operations to restart a steam cracker following a stoppage linked to recent bad weather," Total said in a statement. "During these operations, a stream production unit exploded for an unknown reason."
Steam crackers are machines that convert oil destillates into basic petrochemicals.
Total's statement did not mention anyone being buried under rubble.
Industry Minister Christian Estrosi and junior Environment Minister Chantal Jouanno were due to visit the scene of the explosion later Wednesday, their offices said.
In 2001, 31 people died and 30,000 homes were devastated in an explosion at a warehouse at the AZF chemical fertiliser plant owned by a Total subsidiary near the southwestern French city Toulouse.
The Carling plant produces a range of petrochemicals including ethylene, propylene, methane and styrene, and plastic consumer products such polyethylene and polystyrene, according to Total.
The products are produced by the process of steam cracking, whereby petroleum and either gas oil or naphtha are mixed in a cracking oven with superheated steam at 800 degrees Celsius (1,470 Fahrenheit), the company said.
Date created : 2009-07-15