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Location and time:
Spain, Alcanar, 11-07-1978
The disaster occurred at 14:35, while the truck was moving past the Los Alfaques campsite after travelling 102 km so far.
There are several different witness reports as to the events directly preceding the blast, all of which are more or less equally plausible. Some reported the tank was already leaking as it approached the site, or sprung a leak with a loud bang while passing the site, and was then stopped by the driver. Others reported the bang being caused by a blown tire which caused the truck to swerve out of control and strike the wall separating the campsite from the roadside, possibly overturning in the process.
In either case, the leaking tanker formed a cloud of gaseous propylene that partially entered the campsite and also drifted on the wind towards the discothèque to the northeast. The white cloud attracted the attention of campsite patrons, who approached the cloud with curiosity as it continued to spread. As the cloud began to permeate the crowded discothèque, it reached an ignition source and immediately flashed back into the tanker, causing a fire that nearly instantaneously ruptured the weakened tank and ignited the full load of gas in a massive BLEVE.
At that time the campsite to the south was crowded with nearly 1000 vacationers, mostly German and other foreign tourists, packed tightly in trailers and tents. The blast and fireball (which was estimated at over 1000°F and left a 65'x5' crater) destroyed everything — cars, trailers and buildings — within a 300-metre radius, gutting over 90% of the main camping area. The discothèque to the northeast, which contained almost 100 people and was later determined to be the likely source of the ignition, was also razed to the ground, killing all inside.