Berlin New Year’s Eve air quality ‘worst in Germany’

If you found it difficult to draw breath around midnight on New Year's Eve in the Hauptstadt, you were not alone.

Berlin New Year's Eve air quality 'worst in Germany'
Photo: DPA

Figures from an air quality test conducted during New Year's Eve celebrations showed that the fireworks and pyrotechnics across Berlin resulted in the country’s poorest air quality, the Tagespiegel reports

The figure from Berlin’s Friedrichshain district showed a measurement of 853 micrograms of air pollution per cubic metre. 

Friedrichshain, one of the city’s main party districts and a hub of New Year's Eve fireworks activity, measured roughly 50 milligrams per cubic metre more than the closest figure of 805 from Reutlingen in southwest Germany. 

Leipzig (781 micrograms per cubic metre) recorded a figure which was lower than previous years. 

The topic of New Year's Eve fireworks has become increasingly controversial in recent years, particularly in Berlin where injuries and hospitalisations for firework-related incidents skyrocket during Silvester celebrations

SEE ALSO: Hamburg police seize 850kg firework stash

Aside from the direct impact fireworks have through injuries and burns, the pollution they leave behind litters city streets sometimes for months. 

The air pollution also causes problems, particularly for children, the elderly and people with chronic illness. The German Society for Pulmonology and Respiratory Medicine has called for fireworks usage to be limited or outlawed completely, citing a rise in hospitalisation in the days following New Year's Eve. 

Politicians have also called for fireworks to be further restricted, including limitations on their sale in the lead up to New Year's Eve and the banning of their usage in particular locations or venues. 

Last year the historic Bading Music Hall in the city’s Neukölln district – also a hub of Silvester pyrotechnic activity – burned down as a result of a fire caused by fireworks. 

In total, approximately 4,500 tonnes of fine dust was released into the city’s air on New Year's Eve, a figure which has been relatively constant in recent years. 

While the levels reach their peak in the hours after midnight, the residue can linger for days into the new year but are undetected to the naked eye.  

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Mother and daughters investigated over German zoo fire

A mother and her two daughters have turned themselves in to police over a blaze which killed dozens of monkeys at a zoo in Germany on New Year's Eve, police confirmed Thursday.

Mother and daughters investigated over German zoo fire
A memorial laid out on Thursday at the Krefeld zoo. Photo: DPA

The three women are being investigated for setting off banned flying lanterns to celebrate the New Year, Gerd Hoppmann, head of the Krefeld criminal police, said at a press conference.

The 60-year-old mother and her two adult daughters handed themselves in to police on Wednesday after hearing of the fire on local radio, Hoppmann said.

He said they “seemed like sensible and responsible people” who had shown “courage” in coming forward.

READ ALSO: Fire kills 30 animals at zoo on New Year's Eve

Local prosecutors are now investigating the women for negligent arson, a crime which can be punished with up to five years in prison.

The fire, which claimed the lives of 30 primates including eight great apes, broke out shortly before midnight on New Year's Eve at Krefeld Zoo in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The enclosure housed gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and marmosets. Only
two chimpanzees survived, as well as a family of gorillas in a nearby building.

In a statement on Thursday, the zoo said that it was a “miracle” that the two chimpanzees, named Bally and Limbo, had survived the blaze.

A memorial set out on Wednesday evening. Photo: DPA

“Both suffered only light injuries. They have been moved to the gorilla enclosure and are being looked after by several zoo vets,” said the zoo, which remained closed on Thursday.

Police believe the fire was caused by one of the illegal lanterns which landed on the roof of the monkey enclosure.

Hoppmann said investigators had accounted for four lanterns but that one, believed to be the one responsible for the blaze, was “missing”.

Flying lanterns have been forbidden in Germany for 10 years, but Hoppmann said the women were unaware of the ban when they bought theirs on the internet.

The case has intensified an already blazing debate over the widespread use of fireworks by private individuals on New Year's Eve.

Setting off fireworks in public is a long-standing New Year's tradition in Germany, but it has faced increasing criticism from environmental and animal protection groups in recent years.

On Wednesday, the German animal protection association called for all kinds of fireworks to be banned near zoos, farms and kennels.

The tragedy has also sparked an outpouring of sympathy, with tearful visitors lighting candles and leaving flowers and soft toys at the entrance for the zoo.

Krefeld zoo is home to around 1,000 animals and attracts some 400,000 visitors a year.

By Kit Holden