• Germany's news in English
 

Fire kills 14 at workshop for disabled people

Published: 26 Nov 2012 16:11 GMT+01:00
Updated: 26 Nov 2012 21:17 GMT+01:00

The fire broke out at 2 pm and was likely caused by an explosion in a storage room at the workshop in Titisee-Neustadt, in the Black Forest area of Baden-Württemberg, according to the police.

"We can tell you that we have 14 dead. The process of identification is ongoing," said Karl-Heinz Schmid, a spokesman for police in the nearby city of Freiburg. "We also have a large number of injured who have been taken to hospital."

What caused the blast is not yet clear – the centre mainly offers training in wood and metal work or fitting electrics.

Firefighters managed to rescue almost everyone in the building – employees generally had mental or physical disabilities. But 14 could not be saved, and died either from burns or smoke inhalation.

There are around 120 people who work in the Titisee-Neustadt centre, 50 of whom were in the building at the time. Police have asked those who were there when the fire broke out to identify themselves.

Around 300 firefighters from neighbouring regions came to help put out the blaze, which took over two hours to extinguish. Authorities were working to determine the cause of the fire. It was not clear whether chemicals were stored in the building, but the workshop's activities included the treatment of wood.

Pictures showed dense smoke billowing out of the three-storey concrete building and firefighters helping the injured, some in wheelchairs, to helicopters and ambulances.

Alexander Widmaier, head of the local fire department, said the alarm was raised at 1:58 pm local time (1258 GMT) and his firefighters were on the scene within six minutes. He said there was a "massive" amount of smoke that filled the building "extremely quickly."

A source close to Caritas, the welfare association that runs the workshop, said there were 50 or 60 people aged between 20 and 65 in the building when the blaze broke out.

In total, the workshop employed some 120 people with disabilities.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the majority were mentally disabled workers who were manufacturing wooden decorations for Christmas as well as other electrical and metal goods.

The building was relatively modern and fully in line with fire regulations, this source stressed. The building was still intact after the blaze was extinguished.

Caritas president Peter Neher said: "We know the colleagues at the scene will do everything to find out the cause for this terrible event."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted that she was "appalled" by the fire and was receiving updates from Winfried Kretschmann, the state premier of Baden-Württemberg, where the fire took place.

Kretschmann himself said: "My thoughts go out to the victims and my deepest condolences go to their families. The whole of Baden-Wuerttemberg mourns with

them."

Some 25 counsellors were treating relatives of the victims at the scene. The process of identifying the dead was expected to last until the early evening local time. The local Red Cross sent 80 people to lend assistance.

Prosecutors and experts must now investigate the possible causes of the blaze, said a spokesman for the local fire department.

"We are dealing here with people who of course do not react rationally," fire chief Widmaier said.

DPA/AFP/The Local/jcw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

16:46 November 26, 2012 by Zubair Khan
An extremely tragic incident. Almighty may rest the departed souls in peace. Exact reasons must be determined to avoid any repetition in future.
22:03 November 26, 2012 by Kennneth Ingle
Such grievous events always seem to hit those who already have a disadvantage in life, but should such people be allowed to work with dangerous substances? Safety-first does not appear to have been observed by those who are responsible in this case.

Even if this fire was a deliberately started, it would be normal for such a building to have enough emergency exits. In Asia dangerous working conditions are common, that is the reason such countries can produce cheaper goods than Europe. In Germany however, one expects and usually has more than enough rules and regulations to cover danger by fire. My sympathy goes to the injured and the families who were struck by this tragedy.
Today's headlines
Interior ministry bans Salafist group
Thomas de Maizière. Photo: DPA

Interior ministry bans Salafist group

Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière ordered the dissolving of salafist organisation Tauhid Germany on Thursday, saying that the group radicalized youth and encouraged them to travel to Syria to fight for Isis. READ  

New minute of silence for Germanwings victims
MPs in the Bundestag (German parliament) fall silent for a minute before beginning the day's work. Photo: DPA

New minute of silence for Germanwings victims

Germans again took a few moments on Thursday to remember those killed in the Germanwings flight 4U9525 plane crash on Tuesday. READ  

Ukraine refugees make tracks to Germany
Ukrainian refugees arriving in Poland by plane. Photo: DPA

Ukraine refugees make tracks to Germany

Germany received one of the highest numbers of Ukrainian asylum seekers in Europe last year, according to data released last week by Eurostat and analyzed by The Local. READ  

Merkel must be firm with Modi: Amnesty
Narendra Modi. Photo: DPA

Merkel must be firm with Modi: Amnesty

Speaking to the The Local ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Germany next month, Amnesty International warned that his poor record on human rights must factor into the talks. READ  

Alps plane crash
Höwedes takes focus off football
Photo: DPA

Höwedes takes focus off football

Germany defender Benedikt Höwedes held up a sign in memory of children from his home town killed in the Germanwings plane crash before a friendly against Australia on Wednesday night. READ  

'Space stone' brought back to Cologne
Alexander Gerst and Mayor of Cologne Jürgen Roters. Photo: Stadt Köln

'Space stone' brought back to Cologne

German astronaut Alexander Gerst visited the Cologne city hall on Wednesday to present a special gift – a stone from the city's famous cathedral that he'd taken into space with him. READ  

Germanwings crash
Germany mourns for 4U9525 victims
A German flag flying at half mast at the Bundestag (German parliament) Photo: DPA

Germany mourns for 4U9525 victims

Flags flew at half mast across Germany on Wednesday in memory of the people killed in Tuesday's crash of Germanwings flight 4U9525. READ  

Business confidence hits 8-month high

Business confidence hits 8-month high

German business confidence rose to its highest level in eight months in March, as optimism continues to grow about the outlook for Europe's biggest economy, the Ifo economic institute said on Wednesday. READ  

Germanwings crash
German cops, lawyers join crash probe
Photo: DPA

German cops, lawyers join crash probe

State prosecutors from Düsseldorf and federal police forensics experts are on their way to France to join in the investigation into crashed Germanwings flight 4U9525. READ  

Berliner freed after 25 years on death row
Debra Milke at a press conference in Pheonix on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Berliner freed after 25 years on death row

A Berlin-born woman who spent 25 years in a US jail accused of participating in the murder of her son spoke publicly about her experience on Tuesday, the first time since her release. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
National
Germanwings co-pilot was 'locked out of cockpit' before crash
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,178
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd