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'Like an inferno': Three injured after huge fire at German apartment complex

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DPA/The Local - [email protected]
'Like an inferno': Three injured after huge fire at German apartment complex
Flames erupt from an apartment complex. In Essen's western district, an entire apartment block went up in flames early on Monday morning. Photo: dpa/KDF-TV | Stephan Witte

A large apartment complex went up in flames in the German city of Essen early Monday morning, with fire services evacuating some 100 residents.

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Emergency services believe they have staved off a disaster after managing to evacuate all residents of the building within roughly twenty minutes of being alerted to a fire at the complex.

Three people were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

While fire services haven't yet accounted for all residents, they say that the number they took out "roughly adds up."

"It's very difficult and at times dangerous for fire teams to go in there right now and to search every apartment," a fire services spokesman said Monday morning.

Later on Monday morning fire teams were still working to extinguish the flames.

Smoke was first reported in the building at around 2:00 am. Strong winds brought in by storm Antonia then stoked the flames, meaning that the whole building caught fire in a short time.

Questions are being raised as to how the blaze could spread through the building so quickly.

The complex was a new building from 2015 that was equipped with fire doors to prevent a fire from spreading quickly, according to the latest fire safety standards. The fire doors were last serviced in March 2021, a spokesman for the building's owner, Vivawest Wohnen GmbH, confirmed.

The company also stated that the building's insulation was made with mineral fiber boards, which are less susceptible to fire than polysterol insulation materials.

Vivawest said that it would put up the residents in hotel rooms at short notice at the housing company's expense.

Fires services were still working to extinguish the flames later on Monday morning. Photo: DPA

35 year-old resident Lennart Diedrich was one of the first eyewitnesses who reported the fire.

"It was around two o'clock. I wanted to go to bed and I turned off the lights when outside some shouted 'Fire! Fire!'" Diedrich told DPA.

"And then I looked out the window, and there was smoke coming out where the blinds were hanging at half-mast. That's when I said, OK, this is more serious," he added.

Diedrich described the fire being "like an inferno" as the flames ripped through the building.

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After the first fire teams arrived, Diedrich and two other residents assisted them in rescuing a disabled man in a wheelchair from one of the upper floors.

"Two were at the back, I grabbed the front and we carried him down," he recalled. "Then the police came and everything was evacuated."

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