• 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
Experts: Steinmeier's Egypt visit is 'wrong'
Frank-Walter Steinmeier with Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo. Photo:DPA

Experts: Steinmeier's Egypt visit is 'wrong'

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's visit to Egypt on Monday - his first since Abdel Fatah el-Sisi came to power in a 2013 coup - has been condemned as "sad" and "wrong" by experts. READ  

Germany among top ten countries for mums

Germany among top ten countries for mums

Germany took eighth place worldwide in a ranking of the best countries for mothers released by Save the Children on Tuesday. READ  

Schäuble fears Greece deal may fall through
Photo: DPA

Schäuble fears Greece deal may fall through

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble expressed scepticism on Tuesday about whether Greece would be able to strike a deal with international creditors in the next few days on vital financial aid. READ  

Man jailed over kids' deaths in bath
The state court in Kassel. Photo: DPA

Man jailed over kids' deaths in bath

A court in Kassel sentenced a man to three years in jail on Monday after his children died in the bath while he was checking train times at the station. READ  

Elderly burglar foiled after losing glasses
Is Germany experiencing a pensioner crime wave? Photo: DPA

Elderly burglar foiled after losing glasses

One of Germany's oldest burglars has had to spend his 70th birthday in a police hospital after being caught during his latest break-in attempt. READ  

Nightclub owner bans 'aggressive' refugees
File photo: DPA

Nightclub owner bans 'aggressive' refugees

A Bavarian nightclub owner has introduced a ban on refugees after claiming that they were causing trouble in his establishment. READ  

Germans fathered by Allied soldiers speak out
Photos of one 'occupation child' and her parents. Photo: DPA

Germans fathered by Allied soldiers speak out

A quarter of a million Germans were fathered by Allied soldiers after the Second World War. Many have spent their lives not knowing their fathers and stigmatized by their own society. READ  

Supermarket meat needles were 'warning'
The woman speaks with her lawyer in the courtroom. Photo: DPA

Supermarket meat needles were 'warning'

A woman has admitted to a Lübeck court that she placed needles in meat packets in a supermarket in northern Germany, hoping to discourage them from eating mass-produced food. READ  

Train strikes
Drivers' walkout brings fresh rail misery
A man sits on a platform at Munich main station on Tuesday morning. Photo: DPA

Drivers' walkout brings fresh rail misery

The beginning of a six-day strike by train drivers on Tuesday left millions of people across Germany struggling to get to work on Monday morning. READ  

Jobtalk Germany
Are robots about to take away 18 million jobs?
Robots are set to wipe out large sectors of the work force. Photo:DPA

Are robots about to take away 18 million jobs?

A study commissioned by ING-Diba claims that 59 percent of Germany's work force could be replaced by machines and software in the coming decades. The impact on German society is set to be radical. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
Features
Off to Norway at 18 km/hour
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Gallery
German beer day: take the tour
Gallery
The smileys Germans love to text
National
Expats face Monday deadline to register to vote for UK election
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
National
VIDEO: Mario Draghi suffers anti-ECB confetti attack
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
Pupils mourn lost classmates
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
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
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

7,177
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd
?>