Metal plate from chemical plant explosion kills man 3km away

A man has been killed after his apartment building was hit by a metal plate when a chemical plant exploded three kilometres away.

The victim, named only as Sergio, died in his home in Torreforta, in Catalonia, Spain, when the one-tonne shrapnel collapsed his building on Tuesday, authorities said.

Residents added they saw "a ball of fire" across the sky after the accident at the Quimicas del Oxido de Etileno (IQOXE) chemical plant in Tarragona.

The blast also killed a factory worker and left another eight injured.

Smoke rise following a big explosion at an industrial hub near the port city of Tarragona, Spain. Source: AP Photo/David Oliete

Officials said it was caused by an explosion of a 20-tonne tank full of ethylene oxide, adding there had been no leaks of toxic substances to the surrounding area.

While the blaze has been brought under control, local authorities said they had yet to identify the second victim at the factory.

“There is structural risk in the area and work is being done to stabilise the area and safely reach the victim,” they tweeted.

Prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s office said he was in touch with Catalan authorities and Madrid was ready to “provide the necessary support due to this serious event, which has caused several injuries and substantial material damage”.

A spokesman for IQOXE, owned by Spain’s CL Grupo Industrial, said the company had opened an internal investigation into the explosion.

General view of the IQOXE petrochemical factory the morning after a blast in Tarragona. Source: EPA

“We deeply regret the loss of one of our co-workers and the suffering of those who are injured,” spokesman José Luis Morlanes said.

The factory began operations in June 2017 and had been operating normally, he added, prior to Tuesday’s explosion.

The civil defence agency, which initially advised people nearby to stay indoors as a precaution, said air quality tests carried out on Wednesday had not shown any risk.

IQOXE is a producer of ethylene oxide, a highly flammable gas used to make, among other things, ethylene glycol used in computers and vehicles.

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