A massive explosion at a chemical waste plant shattered windows, tore doors off their hinges and ripped the roofs off homes in the northern German village of Ritterhude early Wednesday morning, leaving many residents in a state of shock.
The blast could be heard 18 kilometers away in the city of Bremen. Some 350 police and firefighters from around the region rushed to the scene at Ritterhude, which has a population of just over 14,000.
"As we were wondering what it was, the first emergency calls began to come in," said Karl-Heinz Knorr with the Bremen fire department.
One man was rushed to the hospital after suffering third-degree burns all over his body. It's unclear whether or not the burn victim was a plant worker who had been reported missing earlier. The missing worker had apparently rushed back to check on the facility after an alarm went off.
Police said that more than 30 homes were affected by the blast, with some of them at risk of collapse.
The chemical waste plant had long been a source of concern in the community, according to Susanne Geils, the mayor of Ritterhude.
"It was immediately clear to me that something had happened here in the community and also where (it happened)," Geils said. "We always looked at this company with concern."
The cause of the blast remains unknown.