One person has been crushed to death and two are fighting for life after a massive explosion ripped though a chemical plant in Spain.
The shockwave from the blast in Tarragona in northeastern Spain caused a house to collapse on top of one person, killing them.
A plant worker was still unaccounted for nearly three hours after the 6.40pm blasts on an industrial estate near the east coast city an hour’s drive south of Barcelona.
Catalan Interior Minister Miguel Buch, who confirmed the death and an injury toll of eight, said authorities had not ruled out the possibility the missing worker could have left the site unharmed.
The person who died was inside a flat near the plant which collapsed in the aftermath of the explosions.
Pictures and video showed a massive mushroom cloud of fire rising into the sky over the city.
Workers at the plant where the explosion occurred have also told local media a colleague is missing.
The main explosion at the plant is understood to have affected an ethylene oxide tank at the IQOXE plant.
The petrochemical company boasts on its website of being the only producer of ethylene oxide in Spain, used to make products including detergents.
Mr Buch said a second blast had affected an external installation.
The person who died was trapped in a flat in a neighbourhood called Torreforta near the industrial estate which neighbours said had collapsed after the building was shaken by the blasts.
Although the victim is thought to have been crushed to death, local town hall sources said flying glass from one of the apartment windows could be to blame.
The regional Civil Protection agency confirmed two people, thought to be workers at the chemical plant, had been badly injured after suffering serious burns.
Although a spokesman said the injury toll was six, it later emerged another two more people who were only slightly hurt had been taken to hospital.
Officials said one of the casualties was “critical” and described another as “serious”, saying five of the eight people hurt had suffered minor injuries.
A CCTV camera near the plant captured the exact moment of the explosion, which occurred at 6.41pm local time.
A local resident named only as Ines told radio station Cadena Ser: “The sky turned a colour between white and blue. There was a horrible light.
“Then a black plume of smoke appeared with a really strong smell and firefighters and ambulances began to arrive.
“I ran home and closed all my doors and pulled down the blinds.”
Although firefighters said the fire caused by the explosion was under control, the blaze was expected to continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning.
Catalan president Quim Torra said: “I would like to send my condolences to the family of the person who died as a result of this accident.
“We would also like to send a message of tranquility to the population because no toxic agent has been detected in the air.”
Around 300,000 people in the area were advised to stay indoors and close windows and doors as there was a risk of chemical contamination and fears the wind would carry the smoke cloud across the region.
Windows on buildings as far afield as the the holiday resort of Salou were said to have been shaken by the blast.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s office said he was in touch with Catalan authorities and that Madrid was ready to “provide the necessary support due to this serious event, which has caused several injuries and substantial material damage”.
A spokesman in Catalonia’s rescue services, which provides rescue services and disaster relief in the region, said the fire was now contained.
Around 20 fire trucks, 11 emergency medical service vehicles and a helicopter attended the incident. TV footage showed a large fire with black smoke billowing above it.
The civil defence agency advised people nearby to stay inside with doors and windows shut as a precaution, but added: “There is no evidence of a toxic cloud.”
Local trains between Tarragona and neighbouring Port Aventura were suspended on police orders, the train operator Rodalies said, while the regional transport authority said some roads had been closed.
The affected company is Industrias Quimicas del Oxido de Etileno, the fire brigade said.
Catalonia’s civil defense agency said an explosion at a factory in an industrial estate in the province sparked the large fire, adding it was probably the result of a chemical accident, Reuters reports.
Twitter users have been sharing this terrifying video of the explosion, which shows the sheer scale of the massive fireball as it tore through the night sky –
Shocked residents have been posting pictures on social media of the tower of flame, after their windows were rattled for miles around.
A chemical emergency alert was issued and officials were calling it a “chemical accident”.
Tarragona is 71 miles south west of Barcelona and has a population of around 800,000.
The train service in the area near the plant has been suspended and roads have been closed.
Tarragona is 115km (71 miles) south west of Barcelona, the regional capital of Catalonia.
The region is home to a major chemical industry.