ROTTERDAM - An explosion at Shell Pernis has caused havoc in Hoogvliet and Spijkenisse. When hit two people died. In the residential areas around the refinery killed tens of thousands of windows.

At the refinery, hundreds of firefighters trying to control a blaze. According to experts it is the largest fire in Rotterdam, Since the bombing of 1940.

The explosion at the fire was an explosion before, that killed two employees of the company's life. Van de 63 wounded five are in bad shape.

According to the fire department is an area of 250 bij 250 meter in brand. Flames are tens of meters up. No dangerous substances are released, Van den Bergh said Director.

The fire started early this morning 04:23 hour at one of the crackers with a huge explosion. According to eyewitnesses, there was then a blowtorch over 100 meter high seen on site. There were other small explosions heard.

The pressure wave from the explosion forced it fell in the nearby Pernis and Hoogvliet thousands windows. Also from Vlaardingen, Spijkenisse and South Rotterdam are reports of damage.


The fire gave a half hours after the outbreak of the fire signal that they had the situation under control. The fire spread out farther and the explosion was gone. Extinguishing is expected to take until tomorrow.

An hour later the journalists were on site, so that outsiders could get a picture of the damage.

"New steel tanks where the patches by hanging. The pressure tanks buckled. A sea of ​​twisted pipes. Roaring flames and the sound of escaping steam from a pipe, made the show extra sinister. "

(Het Vrije Volk, 20-01-1968)

The fire at Shell even made it to the international media, like the British newsreel

A few buildings on the property have been completely destroyed by the explosion and subsequent fire. One of the tanks broke down during the visit of the journalists, thereby quickly had to find refuge. The tank burning oil poured over the grounds.

The cause of the explosion is still unknown. The damage runs as director Van den Bergh certainly in the tens of millions.


A little further is the damage of the explosion is still visible. The villages Hoogvliet and Pernis resemble a war zone. Anyone who had the windows closed, and that many people because it is the middle of winter, and lives near Shell windows lost by the pressure wave. Also were dismayed windows and doors.

In the shopping center Hoogvliet all windows of the shops killed. Stuff from the windows scattered on the square.

In many streets are people for hours trying to clean up inside the glass and to take measures to temporarily close the window. Often it was done by men, only an overcoat over their pajamas had.

At the hobby shop in Hoogvliet were in the course of the morning, long lines of people, who needed wooden boards to hammer close the deal.

Victims all tell the same story. It was something this morning for thirty remarkably quiet, thereafter, the pressure wave followed. Then the blow of the explosion could be heard only.

The blow was so hard, that some people were trapped in the ceiling curtain, the glass shards were used as pins. Pieces of glass were in walls, closets and in the floor. In others it was the pressure wave on the one hand entered the house through the windows and through the windows on the other side of the housing to the outside again.

Hoogvliet and Pernis -if known- only slightly wounded. In most cases these are people who have gone through the glass in the house with their bare feet.

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replacement glass

This morning at a quarter to five, less than one hour after the explosion, arrived at the North Glashandel in Rotterdam all the first calls from people who were looking for replacement windows. "Since then, the phone has not stopped", said director Aarse against the Free People.

The glazier says he has arranged extra staff to handle the damage as soon as possible. Probably that job fully completed end of next week.

Law enforcement

Police have deployed many additional agents after the explosion. Not only Shell site was sealed. Even drove there by car speakers Hoogvliet, to provide people with information, so that could return the rest.

Vlaardingen officers saw to it that looters would not strike, at stores that had lost their windshield. Also in Vlaardingen, the big damage. In Delta- and Maas Hotel, Queen Wilhelmina Harbor and Big Fat Nordic Polder there were mainly glass damage.

another incident

It is certainly not the first incident in the port of Rotterdam in recent months. Last week Pakhoed burned in a tank with kerosene off. It came when at least five people dead.

read more: Conflagration in kerosene tanks Pakhoed in Botlek

Experts then let all know that Rotterdam Vlaardingen "had crawled through the eye of the needle ', as close to the fire were a few tanks with toxic substances.

Alderman De Vos came this morning personally size up taking the loss on the Shell site.

Hoe ging het verder?

Op 26 maart 1968 presents Roolvink Minister of Social Affairs and Health issued a report on the fire at Shell Pernis. The report was compiled by the Labor.

"The investigation revealed that the cause must be sought in a tank of oil residues, which was provided with a steam heating near the bottom. Due to the cold weather in the previous two weeks, the steam heating business. Due to difficulties with the breaking of an emulsion during the previous days in a desalination crude oil there had been a large supply of waste oil, for a part in the form of an aqueous emulsion of water-in-oil, die o.a. was present in the said tank. There has been a vigorous boiling phenomenon in the tank, result of which was charged with a large amount of hydrocarbons in the air in a short time. The presence of a very weak and variable wind has led to which is then formed a large cloud, consisting of an explosive mixture of air and spray of these hydrocarbons. By failing to source these explosive cloud ignited with certainty and explodes with great intensity. "

At the bottom of a tank of oil-rich water was a heater. It was customary. The slurry was warmed and the bottom of the tank began to overheated steam. A vapor cloud is escaped to the outside through a valve, but that was hanging in the tank. When there was only needed a spark to get things clap. What caused the spark will remain unclear forever.

According to experts of the labor there was an "unforeseen coincidence '. "In the oil industry, one has to date never realized, that the presence of an emulsion layer of a particular composition in a heated tank demolition could be a reason for the induction of a sudden expulsion of a large amount of hydrocarbon haze ". Met andere woorden: nobody knew to cause the explosive mix in such tank.


Eventually, two people lost their lives in the explosion. There were 76 people slightly injured and had to 9 people to hospital. It seems that these are the injuries on the location of Shell and in Hoogvliet, Pernis and Vlaardingen, but that is not certain.

The damage was caused by the blow was reimbursed in most cases by the insurance. For those who did not (good) were insured, Shell came with a fee.


The Historical Society Hoogvliet has created an exhibition about the explosion at Shell. More information on the website of the Historical Society Hoogvliet.


Het Vrije Volk – 20-01-1968 – Fighting wall of fire

Dagblad van het Noorden – 20-01-1968 – Shell Pernis Inferno

Royal Library – Report Ministry of Social Affairs and Health on the fire at Shell Pernis

Text: Dave Datema

Thanks to the Historical Society Hoogvliet

published: 20-01-2018

story number: 60