STA, 12 May 2022 - A huge explosion at the Melamin chemical plant in Kočevje, south Slovenia, on Thursday morning is believed to have killed five people, who remain unaccounted for, presumably buried under the rubble, making this the worst industrial fire in modern Slovenian history.
"The five missing persons have probably perished because the explosion was so fierce there was no chance of survival," the company's director Srečko Štefanič said.
Two more people are in hospital with severe burns and are fighting for their lives, UKC Ljubljana hospital said.
The explosion occurred when epichlorohydrin, a volatile substance that was being transferred from a tank truck to an on-site cistern, burst into flames, according to Štefanič.
Štefanič said the precise cause of the blast remained unclear but it was likely the result of human error, adding two compounds appeared to have come into contact.
Only one of the missing persons is a Melamin employee, the rest are contractors who were working on the site at the time.
The plant, which produces plastic materials, paints, varnishes and other coatings and chemical products, is located not far from the centre of Kočevje and the 8:30am blast was heard dozens of kilometres away.
While a handful of people were treated for smoke inhalation, the blast did not cause damage in the community.
Firefighters have completed their work and only about a dozen remain on-site as a precaution, said commander of the Kočevje fire brigade and head of the firefighting operation Leon Behin.
The recovery of the bodies will not be able to start before the rubble cools down, presumably tomorrow.