A victim of a huge explosion in north-east Spain died when a boiler cover flew three kilometres and hit a building, it’s emerged.

The blast at a chemical plant near Tarragona, 115 kilometres southwest of Barcelona, has left three people dead and several injured.

Tarragona’s mayor, Pau Ricomà, said the boiler cover had smashed through the window of an apartment, causing its floor to fall and killed a man living underneath. He described the event as “almost unbelievable”.

Earlier, emergency workers found a lifeless body at the chemical plant where the explosion happened on Tuesday evening.

Authorities are investigating the cause of what they described as a “chemical accident” on the premises of chemical maker Iqoxe. The eight people injured all worked there, officials said.

Iqoxe CEO Jose Luis Morlanes said the explosion occurred in a tank of ethylene oxide in a part of the plant that had not had any problems since it was built in 2017.

Morlanes said the company was investigating the causes of the explosion but its inspectors could not approach the site while firefighters were still working.

According to the company’s website, Iqoxe is Spain’s sole producer of ethylene oxide, a chemical compound used for making detergents, solvents and other products, as well as glycol, one of the main raw materials in the production of plastics.

Regional firefighters for Catalonia said 30 crews worked through the night to combat a fire the explosion caused at the plant. Fire chief Albert Ventosa said the blaze was under control Wednesday.

The explosion could be seen for miles as local residents posted videos showing the aftermath of the blast, with flames and a big column of black smoke emerging from an area dotted with big industrial tanks.

Antonia Caballero, 65, was cleaning her house when the explosion occurred.

“I thought that the door at the front of the building had collapsed. I looked out to the window and I saw the flames. I went to the door and left right away,” she said.

“My sons called me. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”

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