• Germany's news in English
 

Fire kills 14 at workshop for disabled people

The Local · 26 Nov 2012, 21:17

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
Whiff of foul play in Cologne mayoral election
An electoral poster next to Cologne Cathedral. Photo: DPA

Whiff of foul play in Cologne mayoral election

11 hours ago

Did the Social Democratic Party (SPD) deliberately skew voting slips in Cologne's mayoral elections to hand their candidate an advantage?

Refugee crisis
Five ways you can help refugees in Germany
Woman bring clothing donations to a German Red Cross station in Heidenau, scene of anti-refugee demonstrations last weekend. Photo: DPA

Five ways you can help refugees in Germany

9 hours ago

The Local's pointers for how to get started if you're interested in donating your money, unwanted possessions, time or skills to help refugees in Germany.

FC Bayern takes refugee kids under its wing
Players will walk into the Allianz Arena hand-in-hand with young refugees on September 12th. Photo: DPA

FC Bayern takes refugee kids under its wing

8 hours ago

FC Bayern Munich said on Thursday that it would help young refugees learn German and play football and donate €1m of the proceeds from an upcoming friendly match.

Berlin hotel extends beds for basketball giants
Dirk Nowitzki (r) - too tall for a normal hotel bed. Photo: DPA

Berlin hotel extends beds for basketball giants

8 hours ago

The Berlin hotel hosting the international basketball teams playing in the 2015 European championships matches here have extended their beds to 2.50 metres in order to accomodate the giant players.

Migrant crisis
Hungary says refugees are 'German problem'
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (l) and refugees boarding a train at Budapest's Keleti station. Photos: DPA

Hungary says refugees are 'German problem'

12 hours ago

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban insisted Thursday the migrant crisis was a German problem, not a European one as he defended his government's handling of thousands of refugees flooding into his country.

Banks jack up ATM fees for non-customers
Photo: DPA

Banks jack up ATM fees for non-customers

13 hours ago

Germany's big private banks are increasing fees for customers at other financial institutions to withdraw cash from their ATMs, making ordinary people pay the price for a bankers' spat.

Berlin mayor christens brand-new U-Bahn trains
Berlin Mayor Michael Müller smashes a bottle of Berliner Weisse beer against the metal skin of a new U-Bahn train to christen it. Photo: DPA

Berlin mayor christens brand-new U-Bahn trains

15 hours ago

The first of an all-new model of Berlin U-Bahn trains was christened on Wednesday evening by city mayor Michael Müller in a typically Berlin ceremony.

Migrant crisis
Biggest EU nations want refugees shared fairly
A man leads migrants in a chant in front of police lines at Budapest's Keleti railway station on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Biggest EU nations want refugees shared fairly

15 hours ago

Germany, France and Italy called for an overhaul of laws on the right of asylum and a fairer distribution of migrants throughout the European Union, Italy's foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The Local List
7 ways Germans get English totally wrong
Don't let their confidence fool you: Germans aren't always the best at English. Photo: DPA.

7 ways Germans get English totally wrong

1 day ago

As much as English-speakers might feel insecure about their Deutsch skills when faced with Germans' comparatively widespread grasp of English, Germans themselves often mess up English - in some pretty hilarious ways.

Mannschaft step forward to welcome refugees
Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger at a press conference earlier this week. Photo: DPA

Mannschaft step forward to welcome refugees

1 day ago

Germany's World Cup-winning footballers have condemned xenophobic attacks on the thousands of foreigners pouring into their country and led calls to help the refugees amidst the ongoing crisis.

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS

Features
'Berlin is kind of like the best American city'
Features
How Brits in Germany are facing Brexit fears
Sport
German named 'arse bombing' world champ
Travel
Retiree finds parked car after three-week search
National
Ten ways Germany puts Britain to shame
Business & Money
German gadget clamps down on Nutella thieves
Society
Is Germany now a nation of couch potatoes?
National
Half of Germans 'have had sex in their car'
Society
Deadly stew spooks home vegetable gardeners
Politics
The man who brought two Germanies together
Features
Where to get your culture fix in Cologne
Education
Fairytale world of Brothers Grimm brought to life
Rhineland
Thieves leave 1,000 open beers untasted
National
Way to some Germans' hearts is through their wallets
National
Germany's biggest challenge: European refugee crisis
Travel
Where to get your adrenaline pumping in Germany
Technology
Could thieves hack into luxury cars?
What to watch out for when snapping your lunch
National
German lefties through history
National
The fight over prostitution heats up
National
Merkel: migrants, not Greece, are the real challenge
Features
How I explained the Queen to the Germans
Education
Why Germany does 'back-to-school' traditions better
National
Germans are ‘not how foreigners think’
National
A mum and daughter reunite 70 years after WWII
Sport
Bra stops bullet in hunting mishap miracle
National
Cows trample German woman to death in Graubünden Alps
Business & Money
Start-up helps new Berliners short cut bureaucracy
National
The 1,000s of Germans massacred after the Second World War
Sport
Germany star scores own goal with PR gaffe
Features
'Women-only' parking: sensible or sexist?
Politics
Satire and reality blur in parody party's strife
National
13-year-old boy detained for trying to join Isis
Culture
Berlin restaurant serves up Greek Crisis Menu
Rhineland
Doctor on trial after woman wakes in morgue
Society
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Society
Police bust kinky Bavarian couple over painful love-making
Politics
Merkel brings Palestinian girl to tears
Hamburg
Amateur archaeologist finds Nazi gold hoard
National
Could Merkel learn a lesson in love from this doppelganger?
Travel
Why you should stay in Germany for the summer holidays
Sport
German press tell Schweinsteiger 'good riddance'
National
Hamburg gets a bouncing 100kg baby girl
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

6,888
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd