Toll rises to 2 dead after blast at Spain chemical plant

La Canonja (Spain) (AFP)

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Rescuers on Wednesday found a body at a chemical plant in northeastern Spain, raising to two those killed when an explosion ripped through the facility, triggering a massive blaze which raged through the night.

Catalan regional interior minister Miquel Buch confirmed the latest death, saying a body had been located under the rubble at the site on an industrial estate in La Canonja, just outside the northeastern port city of Tarragona.

Spain's civil protection authority also confirmed the second death, identifying the victim as "an employee at the plant" reported missing on Tuesday.

Hundreds of firefighters battled through the night to try and contain the blaze which erupted around 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Tuesday.

Dramatic footage of the moment of the explosion, which was caught by a CCTV camera several kilometres away, showed a huge fireball lighting up the horizon, causing the ground to shake.

One person died when a sheet of metal flung into the air by the force of the blast crashed into a house several kilometres away in the Tarragona suburbs, the Catalan government said.

Two others at site were rushed to hospital with severe burns, rescuers and local officials said, while one person sustained less serious burns and five others were lightly injured.

- No warning for residents -

Some 30 fire engines were drafted in to try and contain the blaze and cool down the propylene oxide tank, the regional fire service said. Rescuers resumed the search for the missing employee at daybreak.

The cause of the blast at the IQOXE facility -- which specialises in the production of ethylene oxide, glycol and propylene oxide -- was not immediately known.

But firefighters and Spain's civil protection authority said no toxic substances had been detected in the surrounding area, with substances at the plant said to be highly flammable but not toxic.

Many local residents complained they had been left in the dark over the massive blast, saying the warning sirens had not been activated.

"We didn't know what was happening! We called 112 (the emergency services) and they... said they didn't know anything. I also thought it was shocking that the sirens never went off," Tarragona resident Mabel Martinez told Catalan public television TV3.

La Canonja mayor Roc Munoz confirmed the sirens did not go off, saying it was a crucial system to warn residents they needed to stay indoors.