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Explosion in Czech chemical plant kills six people

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Kralupy nad Vltavou, Central Bohemia, March 22 (CTK) – Six people died in an explosion on the premises of the chemical plant in Kralupy near Prague Thursday morning and two other are treated in Prague hospitals with rather serious injuries, the regional rescuers spokeswoman Petra Effenbergerova told CTK.

One of the injured persons has burns on about 10 percent of the body and the other has the face devastatingly injured, she said. The life of neither of them is threatened.

The blast has been one the most tragic accidents in Czech industrial plants since the 1960s. Since the fall of communism in 1989, no industrial accident in the country has claimed so many victims.

The Unipetrol petrochemical group said the explosion came from one of the reservoirs in its refinery in Kralupy. “The situation is under control now and there is no further threat. No dangerous substances have leaked,” its spokesman Pavel Kaidl said.

Jana Jandova, from the Czech environmental inspection authority, confirmed that no dangerous substances leaked into the air or water according to the information from the integrated rescue system.

Unipetrol director general Krzysztof Zdziarski expressed his condolences to the families of the victims who were not Unipetrol workers but employees of Unipetrol’s contractors.

According to unofficial information, the victims were probably workers from abroad, possibly Poland. According to CTK’s sources, no Poles are among the dead.

The accident was reported after 10:00. Five units of rescuers and two helicopters were sent to Kralupy. “The first report said there were six injured people. Unfortunately, the situation turned out to be much more tragic. Six people suffered injuries incompatible with life and the doctors had to pronounce them dead,” Effenbergerova said.

Kralupy Mayor Petr Holecek said the blast occurred after the cleaning of an empty storage tank for fuels. It occurred in a place far from the inhabited area and so the locals were not threatened in any way, he said.

Unipetrol spokesman Pavel Kaidl said an emergency team was dealing with the accident.

On March 27, a six-week shutdown of the Kralupy refinery costing over one billion crowns, largest in the plant’s history, was to begin. Unipetrol said the accident has no connection with the planned shutdown.

Regional firefighters’ spokesman Petr Svoboda said the cause of the accident has not been known yet.

“The investigator has been on the scene for a short time. I think we will not know the precise cause today. However, no other blast or fire are threatening,” Svoboda said.

Many politicians offered their sympathy to the families of the victims, including Prime Minister Andrej Babis, President Milos Zeman and his Slovak counterpart Andrej Kiska.

Interior Minister Lubomir Metnar said he would demand thorough checks that would prevent such accidents from occurring.

Unipetrol is the only Czech oil processing company and a major plastics producer. It also runs the largest network of petrol stations in the country. Its majority owner is Poland’s PKN Orlen, which acquired it in 2005. Unipetrol processes crude oil in two refineries, Kralupy nad Vltavou and Zaluzi, north Bohemia, which also produces petrochemical products.

Several accidents occurred on the premises of the Synthos chemical plant in Kralupy in the past few years. In October 2015, two people got injured in a blast in Synthos. In May 2016, there was an explosion in the refinery. In 1988, a fire of a propane-butane station of Synthos (then Kaucuk) claimed one life.

In 2015, three people died in an explosion in the Sellier&Bellot ammunition producer in Vlasim, central Bohemia. In 2011, a blast in the Explosia explosive maker in Pardubice, east Bohemia, claimed four lives.

In 1975, four people died in an explosion in a heating plant in Brno and further 14 later died of their injuries. In 1974, 15 people lost their lives in a fire caused by a blast in a chemical plant in Zaluzi and another two later succumbed to their injuries.

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