Home » Entries posted by KIRSTEN GRIESHABER Associated Press

At least 2 killed in German chemical blast; 31 injured

At least 2 killed in German chemical blast; 31 injured

An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in Germany has killed at least two people, with 31 others injured and several still missing hours laterBy KIRSTEN GRIESHABER Associated PressJuly 27, 2021, 6:32 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in Germany killed at least two people on Tuesday, with 31 others injured and several still missing hours later. Fire officials who tested the air said there did not appear to be a danger to nearby residents after authorities initially urged people to shelter inside.The explosion at the waste management facility of the Chempark site in Leverkusen, near Cologne, sent a large black cloud into the air. It took firefighters almost four hours to extinguish the fire that took hold after the explosion.Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance initially classified the incident as “an extreme threat.” Later on Tuesday, however, the Cologne fire department tweeted that pollution measurements “do not show any kind of abnormality.” They said the smoke had diminished but that they would continue to measure the air for toxins.The city of Leverkusen said the explosion occurred in storage tanks for solvents.Later Tuesday, Chempark operator Currenta said that a second fatality had been confirmed. It put the number of injured at 31 and said five employees were missing.“Unfortunately hope of finding them alive is fading rapidly,” the head of Chempark, Lars Friedrich, said in a statement.City officials asked all residents to stay inside until the late afternoon and warned people from outside Leverkusen to avoid the region. City officials later also warned people not to let children play outside, use outside pools or eat fruit and vegetables from their backyards in the coming days. They said experts would only be able to tell in a few days how toxic the soot from the explosion would be.Currenta said the explosion happened at 9:40 a.m. and then developed into a fire. It said three big tanks were affected by the explosion, but that it was too early to know the cause.“Sirens were operated to warn residents and warning alerts were sent,” Currenta said.Police shut down several nearby major highways for several hours.Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s biggest chemical companies. It has about 163,000 residents and borders Cologne, which is Germany’s fourth biggest city and has around 1 million inhabitants. Many residents work at Bayer, which is one of the biggest employers in the region.The chemical park is located close to the banks of the Rhine river.Currenta has three facilities in the region. More than 70 different companies are based at the locations in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.The mayor of Leverkusen, Uwe Richrath, called the blast “a tragic moment for Leverkusen.”

At least 2 killed in German chemical blast; 31 injured

At least 2 killed in German chemical blast; 31 injured

An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in Germany has killed at least two people, with 31 others injured and several still missing hours laterBy KIRSTEN GRIESHABER Associated PressJuly 27, 2021, 6:32 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — An explosion at an industrial park for chemical companies in Germany killed at least two people on Tuesday, with 31 others injured and several still missing hours later. Fire officials who tested the air said there did not appear to be a danger to nearby residents after authorities initially urged people to shelter inside.The explosion at the waste management facility of the Chempark site in Leverkusen, near Cologne, sent a large black cloud into the air. It took firefighters almost four hours to extinguish the fire that took hold after the explosion.Germany’s Federal Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance initially classified the incident as “an extreme threat.” Later on Tuesday, however, the Cologne fire department tweeted that pollution measurements “do not show any kind of abnormality.” They said the smoke had diminished but that they would continue to measure the air for toxins.The city of Leverkusen said the explosion occurred in storage tanks for solvents.Later Tuesday, Chempark operator Currenta said that a second fatality had been confirmed. It put the number of injured at 31 and said five employees were missing.“Unfortunately hope of finding them alive is fading rapidly,” the head of Chempark, Lars Friedrich, said in a statement.City officials asked all residents to stay inside until the late afternoon and warned people from outside Leverkusen to avoid the region. City officials later also warned people not to let children play outside, use outside pools or eat fruit and vegetables from their backyards in the coming days. They said experts would only be able to tell in a few days how toxic the soot from the explosion would be.Currenta said the explosion happened at 9:40 a.m. and then developed into a fire. It said three big tanks were affected by the explosion, but that it was too early to know the cause.“Sirens were operated to warn residents and warning alerts were sent,” Currenta said.Police shut down several nearby major highways for several hours.Leverkusen is home to Bayer, one of Germany’s biggest chemical companies. It has about 163,000 residents and borders Cologne, which is Germany’s fourth biggest city and has around 1 million inhabitants. Many residents work at Bayer, which is one of the biggest employers in the region.The chemical park is located close to the banks of the Rhine river.Currenta has three facilities in the region. More than 70 different companies are based at the locations in Leverkusen, Dormagen and Krefeld-Uerdingen.The mayor of Leverkusen, Uwe Richrath, called the blast “a tragic moment for Leverkusen.”

Interview: Merkel's likely heir favors her centrist path

Interview: Merkel's likely heir favors her centrist path

DUESSELDORF, Germany — As a child of the Cold War in West Germany, Armin Laschet remembers when then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan came to Berlin in 1987, stood at the barrier separating East from West, and said, “Tear down this wall!”“For many West Germans, that was a utopia that didn’t seem realistic, but which fulfilled itself in the end,” said Laschet, who is seeking to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor in the country’s Sept. 26 election.The 60-year-old governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, is still grateful that in his youth the Americans were reliable guarantors of peace and stability against the Soviet Union.“They were always there for us, they secured the freedom of Berlin,” Laschet said in an interview this week with The Associated Press at his office in the western city of Duesseldorf.For Laschet, close U.S. relations are of utmost importance as Merkel steps down after nearly 16 years in power. He hopes to advance progress on global challenges with the help of a new U.S. leader, President Joe Biden.Recent polls give the Union bloc a 7-10 percentage-point lead over the environmentalist Greens, making Laschet a front-runner to become the leader of Germany, with Europe’s biggest economy. The bloc is made up of his Christian Democratic Union party and the Bavaria-only Christian Social Union party.In his interview with AP, Laschet expressed relief that Biden has brought the U.S. back into the leadership of international challenges, such as global warming, after the Donald Trump administration.“It is good that the new American administration has returned to multilateral agreements and has rejoined the Paris climate accord,” Laschet said. “I have big hopes that under the leadership of the U.S., which has dedicated itself to this goal politically, economically and also financially, we will manage to bring about a big push forward.”He is more reserved about Biden’s assertive stance on China, favoring Merkel’s firm but not so confrontational approach.“China is a partner, but a systemic rival, and that means we have to keep our principles up, continue to remind China about them, but at the same time foster our economic relations to China,” he said, adding that this is true of other countries that aren’t close Western allies.“Wherever countries have a model of society that is different from ours, we need to win them over to join us — whether it is Russia, China or the Arab world.”Like Merkel, Laschet is known as a centrist favoring integration over polarization. So far, he has been guarded in deviating from her successful middle-of-the-road path on domestic issues.“Currently, Laschet appears to all of us like a Merkel 2.0 light version,” said Wolfgang Merkel, a political analyst at Berlin’s Social Science Center and no relation to the chancellor. “He has not distinguished himself as somebody who will do politics differently from Merkel. In many ways he is so much alike her that he cannot differentiate himself from her.”Laschet “is somebody who can build bridges as a political leader, somebody who mediates, who can make compromises,” he added. “He is not a macho politician.”So far, Laschet hasn’t taken positions glaringly different from those of the outgoing chancellor.“I don’t think he will really do that until the election,” the analyst said. “He’s extremely careful. The slogan right now is: Don’t make any mistakes now in the final spurt of the campaign.”Laschet is the son of a miner in Aachen, a university town on Germany’s western border with Belgium and the Netherlands. A slim man with a shock of dark hair and a mischievous smile, he still speaks in the region’s singsong dialect.He married his childhood sweetheart, Susanne, and the devout Catholics have three adult children and still live in Aachen’s Burtscheid district.Growing up in the heart of the continent made him a true European, he says.“Many people live in one country and work in the other, for shopping one goes across the border … and the idea of the classic nation-state has long been overcome because one knows that many problems can only be solved transnationally,” Laschet said.He earned a law degree and worked as a journalist before joining Germany’s parliament as a lawmaker with the CDU in 1994. From 1999-2005, Laschet was a member of the European Parliament. He became governor of North Rhine-Westphalia, a center-left stronghold, in 2017.Laschet has led his state in a coalition with the pro-business Free Democrats, a traditional CDU ally, but is considered capable of working with the more leftist Greens.In the late 2000s, Laschet was his state’s minister for the integration of immigrants. Well before other German states, he stressed the importance of language fluency, stronger women’s rights in immigrant communities, an easier path to citizenship and a need to bring Islamic religious teaching out of storefront mosques and into classrooms, with teachers raised and educated in Germany.The fight against growing antisemitism in Germany is also close to his heart. He strengthened high school exchanges between Germans and Israelis, and, like Merkel, is a strong supporter of Israel.“I think every young person should have visited Auschwitz once to get a sense of the place, of the horror that happened there, to understand what the Holocaust meant as a crime against humanity,” he said.Laschet worries about recent populist and autocratic tendencies in central and eastern Europe, but is very clear about his vision of the European Union.“We need all 27 member states, also Hungary and Poland, if we want to further develop Europe. At the same time, one needs to insist on the rule of law. Everybody who joined the EU has to accept the position of the European Court of Justice, and if somebody violates European law that will lead to sanctions and consequences, for example, when it comes to the allocation of funds,” he warns.The new chancellor must “intensify the dialogue with the democracies of central and eastern Europe.”Sitting on the white couch in his office that overlooks the Rhine, Laschet remembered how a previous German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, initiated another key dialogue early in his career.Kohl organized a meeting of young lawmakers with President Bill Clinton in 1997 to “talk to him for 45 minutes about world politics.””And that really impressed me,” he said, leaping off the couch to grab a framed, yellowed photo of himself shaking hands with Clinton in the Oval Office.—-Pietro DeCristofaro in Berlin contributed.

Jewish Museum in Berlin opens kids' museum about Noah's Ark

Jewish Museum in Berlin opens kids' museum about Noah's Ark

The Jewish Museum Berlin is opening a new museum for children dedicated to the story of Noah’s ArkBy KIRSTEN GRIESHABER Associated PressJune 24, 2021, 8:05 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleBERLIN — Torrential rain pours down, waves break and big puddles splash as visitors enter the new children’s museum at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. No surprise there, because the exhibit is dedicated to the ancient story of Noah’s Ark and begins in the middle of the biblical deluge.Young children are invited to actively participate in Noah’s journey as soon as they set foot in the new ANOHA Children’s World, which opens Sunday. They can build little arks that they can float on a “deluge simulator” or help rescue 150 animals, created by over a dozen artists out of recycled material such as old spoons, espresso coffeemakers, pieces of carpet or bike fenders. They can even use the animals’ pretend excrement — represented by brown felt balls — to fertilize plants.They can also cuddle a gigantic sloth, crawl through the serpentine body of an anaconda or take a rest on a yellow-eyed octopus.The circular, wooden Ark is the centerpiece of the museum and spans 7 meters (23 feet) tall and 28 meters (91 feet) wide. At its heart is an empty space where visitors are invited to sit down, linger and think about life’s big universal questions: about God and the world, the past and the future.At the end of the tour, there are glimpses of the earth again, rocks lurking out of the retreating floods and a big rainbow on which kids can write their thoughts, wishes or worries.The ANOHA museum was built inside a former flower market, across the street from the Jewish Museum’s main building on a 2,700 square-meter (29,000 square-foot) space. It was meant to open in May 2020 but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.While the main Jewish Museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions primarily cater to adults and teenagers, the children’s museum targets the youngest visitors, children between 3 and 10.“We tried to always listen to the children when we created this world,” Ane Kleine-Engel, the head of the children’s museum, told The Associated Press. “From the beginning of the museum’s development, children were involved in the process and we plan to keep them on board as co-curators in the future as well.”Beyond giving the kids ample space for play and creativity, the museum also tries to teach them about the importance of protecting the planet and biodiversity and fighting climate change.“We want the children to start thinking about big themes, too, when they come here,” Kleine-Engel said. “When the animals get on board of the ark, they can’t choose who they like or dislike — everybody has to come along in order to survive, nobody should be excluded.”The museum also educates children about equality and diversity and tries to make them understand that racism, antisemitism and inequality should have no place on the Ark or in real life, Kleine-Engel added.And thus, in a very hands-on way, children can make sure that the cockroaches, rats and snakes also get a spot on Noah’s Ark. They can put them on the lap of a huge orangutan who will keep them from falling into the water.In the end, all animals get a free ride on the Ark — as well as the children and their parents, who also get free entry into the museum.