Experts sift through rubble of for clues to German blaze

6th February 2008, Comments 0 comments

The building was targeted by arsonists in 2006.

Ludwigshafen, Germany -- Police experts searched the rubble of an apartment block Wednesday for clues about the fire that claimed nine lives in the southwestern city of Ludwigshafen.

Ten fire investigators and two sniffer dogs took part in the search, three days after the four-storey, low-rent building housing Turkish families went up in flames.

The investigators were trying to determine whether the fire was caused by a technical defect or was started deliberately. The building was targeted by unidentified arsonists in August 2006.

Four Turkish fire experts were being integrated in the 50-member German investigative team, following a request by the Turkish government.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul called for a "meticulous investigation," referring to previous arson attacks by neo-Nazis that have targeted Turkish immigrants in Germany.

The Turkish minister responsible for the affairs of Turks living abroad, Mustafa Yazicioglu, and German integration commissioner Maria Boehmer were due to lay a wreath outside the building on Wednesday.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to inspect the scene when he visits Germany later this week to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and open a major security conference in Munich.

Some 60 persons were injured in Sunday's blaze, which happened shortly after the end of a carnival parade.

A post-mortem of the victims, among them five children and a pregnant woman, showed eight had died from smoke inhalation. Another woman leaped to her death from an upper floor trying to escape the flames.

German Social Democrat leader Kurt Beck, who is prime minister of the state where Ludwigshafen is located, said Monday there was no indication of a racially motivated attack.

But two young girls who were at the scene told investigators they saw a man lighting a fire in the building's wooden stairwell before the flames engulfed the building.

"We are examining very carefully what the girls told us and taking that into account when conducting our investigations," said Lothar Liebig, the prosecutor in charge. The girls were traumatized by the fire, he added.

Liebig said there was a danger that water used to douse the blaze had destroyed traces of evidence.

DPA with Expatica

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