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UPDATE: One person killed, 11 injured in explosion at German housing block

One person was killed and at least 11 were injured in an explosion Friday at a residential building in the German city of Blankenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, authorities confirmed on Friday.

UPDATE: One person killed, 11 injured in explosion at German housing block
Police shared a photo of the damage. Photo: DPA

The mayor of Blankenburg Heiko Breithaupt told reporters at a press conference that 11 people had been injured, despite earlier police estimates putting the figure at around 25.

One of those was seriously hurt, while nine had escaped with light injuries and another had sustained more serious injuries, Breithaupt said.

The mayor added that the building was now a “scene of devastation”.

Local police chief Frank Götze said that the person killed had not yet been identified, but said the victim may be the owner of the apartment in which the explosion happened.

Police were also unable to say if the blast was deliberately set off or if it was an accident.

Photo: DPA

Götze said the explosion was probably caused by gas canisters found at the scene.

Yet he added that it was unclear why the gas canisters were there, given that the building was supplied by a district heating system.

The explosion struck shortly before 9am at a five-storey building with 60 apartments, sending splinters flying up to 60 metres away.

Residents in the building have been evacuated, police said, with one family transferred to emergency accommodation.

A closer view of the damaged apartment. Photo: DPA

Breithaupt said police were at the scene, and that investigations could continue “well into the night”.

A nearby kindergarten was also evacuated, with around 100 children being taken out of the facility.

Blankenburg is located in the Harz region and has about 20,000 residents.

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POLICE

German police under fire for using tracing app to find witnesses

German police drew criticism Tuesday for using an app to trace contacts from bars and restaurants in the fight against the pandemic as part of an investigation.

A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant.
A barcode used for the Luca check-in app to trace possible Covid contacts at a Stuttgart restaurant. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

The case stemming from November last year began after the fatal fall of a man while leaving a restaurant in the western city of Mainz.

Police seeking possible witnesses made use of data from an app known as Luca, which was designed for patrons to register time spent in restaurants and taverns to track the possible spread of coronavirus.

Luca records the length of time spent at an establishment along with the patron’s full name, address and telephone number – all subject to Germany’s strict data protection laws.

However the police and local prosecutors in the case in Mainz successfully appealed to the municipal health authorities to gain access to information about 21 people who visited the restaurant at the same time as the man who died.

After an outcry, prosecutors apologised to the people involved and the local data protection authority has opened an inquiry into the affair.

“We condemn the abuse of Luca data collected to protect against infections,” said the company that developed the Luca app, culture4life, in a statement.

It added that it had received frequent requests for its data from the authorities which it routinely rejected.

Konstantin von Notz, a senior politician from the Greens, junior partners in the federal coalition, warned that abuse of the app could undermine public trust.

“We must not allow faith in digital apps, which are an important tool in the fight against Covid-19, to disappear,” he told Tuesday’s edition of Handelsblatt business daily.

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