Major explosion at chemical plant shakes German city of Leverkusen.

Residents of the western German city of Leverkusen have been warned to stay indoors after a major explosion at a chemical waste facility.

A black cloud could be seen hanging over the city, 16km from Cologne, following the explosion just before 10am local time. Local police say they expect casualities but said the situation is as yet unclear.

Local media reported that an interim chemicals tank is on fire, close to an incinerator and a large storage tank containing a reported 100,000 litres of flammable liquid.

The Chempark plant, operated by the firm Currenta, is one of the largest in Europe and processes organic and toxic waste, residues, insecticides and other chemical-tainted waste.

Shortly after the explosion, sirens sounded in Leverkusen and residents were warned to close all windows and remain indoors. Germany’s emergency app warned of “extreme danger” and all motorways around the area have been blocked. Cologne fire brigade urged motorists to avoid the area and create emergency passage for its vehicles.

Winds have begun carrying the fumes in a northeaternly direction, away from Cologne and towards Burscheid, Wermelskirchen and Solingen.

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