Emergency services were forced to evacuate the surrounding neighbourhood in western Germany after huge amounts of sulphuric acid escaped into the atmosphere after employees pumped hydrochloric acid into the wrong tank.
As toxic fumes spread, after the mistake by staff at the Hamm Chemie-owned plant, Oberhausen’s authorities requested the help of neighbouring cities to tackle the problem.
Disaster relief units are expected to arrive shortly from Kleve, while the city’s fire brigades are being reinforced by emergency workers from Essen and Duisburg.
At least 150 people have been treated for minor respiratory issues by the emergency services, but only two were taken to hospital, according to a spokesman for the Oberhausen fire department.
A chemical leak in Germany has left 150 people needing treatment
Among the injured are 40 staff from the chemical plant, while the remaining 110 are people working at an industrial facility nearby.
The weather conditions around the plant have meant the dangerous cloud remains close to the ground, which has helped the fire bridge.
Firefighters say “with heavy amounts of water, the cloud will knock down”. But it is unknown how long it will take for them to neutralise the pollutants and return the city to normality, after huge closures to public services.
Joerg Preussner, spokesman for the fire department, added: “We are currently checking out whether we can reduce the cloud of the harmful substance.”
As the acid cloud passes over the Oberhausen, children have been prevented from leaving schools and numerous bus and train services stopped after concerns for the public’s safety.
According to the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, several of the main roads leading to and from the cities’ industrial areas have also been sealed off.
Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s train operator, expects the closure of Oberhausen’s central station to remain closed for the rest of Thursday.
Alex Knauber, the managing director of Hamm Chemie, apologised to the town for the potentially dangerous disruption after the employee error.
He estimated the property damage bill could be as high as £1million (€1.5 million).
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TENSE photos as 'CHEMICAL INCIDENT' near Oxford University leaves one dead Fri, January 20, 2017
A young woman was found dead in a house near Oxford University after the blast this morning, which witnesses described as a 'chemical incident'.
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Emergency services in attendance at Magdalen Road in Oxford where a women has been found dead inside a home after a 'fear for welfare' incident.
The tank has since been emptied by trucks by 130 firefighters and chemical industry specialists from sites in Marl and Leverkusen.
According to the environmental office in Oberhausen, there is no evidence of a danger to the environmental and nature surround the site. The drinking water also remains safe to consume despite the huge plume over the city.
The European Union, in a crackdown on air pollution, sent a final warning to Britain to comply with its pollution limits.
If the UK does not show Brussels how it intends to comply with EU law within two months, a Europe Court of Justice hearing could impose fines of up to £300 million on the UK.
Nigel Farage suggested the pollutants were being blown towards Britain from continental Europe.
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