Miscommunication kills 8 in apartment block fire

9th August 2005, Comments 0 comments

9 August 2005, BERLIN - There is no evidence that a deadly fire which killed eight people in a Berlin apartment block inhabited mainly by foreigners was set by right-wing extremists, officials said Tuesday.

9 August 2005

BERLIN - There is no evidence that a deadly fire which killed eight people in a Berlin apartment block inhabited mainly by foreigners was set by right-wing extremists, officials said Tuesday.

"There is nothing which points to a political or criminal attack," said the city's interior senator, Erhart Koerting, after visiting the charred apartment building in the working class district of Moabit.

Nevertheless, officials said the fire appeared to be have been caused by arson and that baby carriages had been set ablaze in the building's entry.

Officials did not release any information on possible suspects.

Arabs and Polish nationals lived in the apartment house and four of the dead were members of a German-Polish family, officials said. Five of the dead were children, the youngest of whom was two years old.

Fire department chief Albrecht Broemme said the fatalities might have been prevented if there had not been a communications gap.

When the fire department arrived at the scene, firefighters advised the residents to remain in their apartments with the doors closed and wait for the fire to be put out, he said.

But most of the residents could not speak German and did not understand. Instead, many ran out of their apartments in the hopes of fleeing the building and instead encountered flames and thick smoke.

"The flight into the stairwell was a flight into death," Broemme said. Three of the dead were found in one of the apartments. The rest were in the stairwell.

Broemme said the eight fatalities made the fire the German capital's second-deadliest since World War II.

Fifteen people were badly injured in the blaze, two of whom are in a serious condition, officials said. A further 10 people suffered light injuries.

The fire crept up the stairwell floor-by-floor in the six-storey building and was extinguished within 15 minutes by firefighters.

Three apartments were described as filled with smoke after the occupants apparently panicked and opened their stairwell doors.

DPA

Subject: German news

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