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Jewellery shop raided by fake football fans

Three masked men robbed a jewellery store in a Berlin shopping arcade during the Germany-Portugal World Cup match on Monday evening. They escaped by putting a huge Germany flag over their getaway car.

Jewellery shop raided by fake football fans
German flags are paraded on lots of cars during the World Cup, helping the gang make their getaway. Photo: DPA

The men entered the shop around 6.30pm, half-an-hour after the World Cup game kicked off.

They commanded the nine staff and customers present to get down on the ground in a smash-and-grab robbery lasting only about two minutes.

The men smashed display cabinets at the "Christ" jeweller's in the capital's Potsdamer Arcaden complex, stole various items of jewellery and escaped in a car described by witnesses only as "an Audi", police said on Tuesday.

A cashier at the tea shop opposite "Christ", who witnessed the crime, told Berlin's Tagesspiegel newspaper the robbers' escape vehicle had a huge German flag on it, making it appear the owners were football supporters.

"The flag was big and hanging over the back," she said, adding the patriotic decoration was so large she could not read the vehicle's number plate.

After Germany's 4:0 victory an hour later, many of Berlin's streets were full of cars covered in German flags to celebrate the win, while during the game many public areas including much of the shopping centre were deserted.

A spokesman for Berlin police told The Local on Tuesday: "There are a lot of witnesses who need to be heard, and after that we can bring charges – but that will take time.”

He added the shop had not yet confirmed to investigators exactly what had been stolen, so there was as yet no estimate of the heist's value.

The same shop was also the target of a ram-raid burglary in August 2011, Tagesspiegel reported.

The criminals drove a stolen Volvo directly into the shopping arcade around 3:45am before ramming the car through the store's window, stealing luxury watches and escaping on foot to a getaway vehicle waiting outside, according to police.

SEE ALSO: Dozens injured in riot on Berlin street

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WILDFIRES

‘Unprecedented’: How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin’s Grunewald forest

An "unprecedented" fire broke out on Thursday around a German police munitions storage site in a Berlin forest. Here's how events unfolded and the reaction.

'Unprecedented': How explosions and fires have rocked Berlin's Grunewald forest

What happened?

Emergency services were called out after explosions were heard in the ‘Grunewald’ forest in western Berlin in the early hours of Thursday morning. 

It then emerged that a fire had broken out near a police munitions storage site, all on one of the hottest days of the year when temperatures were forecast to reach around 38C in the German capital. 

As explosions continued at the site, sending debris flying into the air, firefighters weren’t initially able to get near the flames to extinguish it. Emergency services set up a 1,000-metre safety zone around the area.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald.

This aerial photo taken by the Berlin Fire Brigade shows the fire in Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Berliner Feuerwehr

Later on Thursday afternoon, Berlin fire brigade spokesman Thomas Kirstein said the situation was “under control and there was no danger for Berliners” but that the fire was expected to last for some time.

No one has been hurt by the fires. Around 250 emergency workers were deployed to the site.

READ ALSO: Blasts ring out as forest fire rages in Berlin’s Grunewald

How was the fire being tackled?

The German army (Bundeswehr) was called in. They sent a tank aimed at evacuating munitions at the affected storage site as well as remote-controlled de-mining robots, while drones circled the air to assess the emergency.

Water cannons were also deployed around the safety zone to prevent the fire from spreading.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey interrupted her holiday to visit the scene, calling the events “unprecedented in the post-war history of Berlin”.

Giffey advised people in Berlin to close their windows but said the danger was minimal as there were no residential buildings within a two-kilometre (1.2-mile) radius and so no need to issue evacuation orders.

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday

Berlin mayor Franziska Giffey speaks at the scene of the forest fire on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

“It would be much more difficult if there were residential buildings nearby,” she said.

What caused the blaze?

That’s still unclear. Police say they are investigating what started the fire exactly. 

The store in question holds munitions uncovered by police, but also unexploded World War II-era ordnance which is regularly dug up during construction works.

Giffey said local authorities would “have to think about how to deal with this munitions site in the future and whether such a place is the right one in Berlin”.

Is Grunewald a popular site?

Very much so. The sprawling forest on the edge of Berlin is home to lots of hiking trails and is even near some popular lakes, such as the Krumme Lanke. It’s also near the Wannsee and Havel river. 

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin's Grunewald

Map shows where the fire broke out in Berlin’s Grunewald. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa Grafik | dpa-infografik GmbH

Authorities appealed for the public to avoid the forest, which is regularly visited by both locals and tourists.

Deutsche Bahn said regional and long-distance transport was disrupted due to the blaze.

A part of the Avus motorway between Spanischer Allee and Hüttenweg was also closed in both directions, as well as Kronprinzessinnenweg and Havelchaussee, according to the Berlin traffic centre.

Aren’t forest fires and strong heat causing problems elsewhere?

Yes. Authorities on Thursday said no firefighting choppers were available as they were already in use to calm forest fires in eastern Germany.

However, they also said the 1,000-metre safety zone applied to the air, so there was a limit to how useful it would be to drop water on the fire from above.

The German capital is rarely hit by forest fires, even though its 29,000 hectares of forests make it one of the greenest cities in the world.

Brandenburg, the region surrounding Berlin, as well as parts of eastern Germany have for days been battling forest fires.

Parts of Germany were also recently hit by forest fires during heatwaves this summer. 

Temperatures were expected to climb as high as 40C across parts of Germany on Thursday. However, it is set to cool down on Friday and thunderstorms are set to sweep in from the west.

With reporting by AFP’s David COURBET

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