Nine homeless men killed in fire at German shelter

2nd December 2005, Comments 0 comments

2 December 2005, HALBERSTADT, GERMANY - Nine men were killed Friday when a flash fire gutted a shelter for the homeless in a German town.

2 December 2005

HALBERSTADT, GERMANY - Nine men were killed Friday when a flash fire gutted a shelter for the homeless in a German town.

Fifteen men were still asleep or preparing breakfast at the refuge when the fire broke out before dawn. The shelter consisted of 20 portable steel cabins bolted together and placed next to the railyard in Halberstadt, 160 kilometres west of Berlin.

Some victims were still seated at table, suggesting they were overcome by fumes. Six survivors ran for their lives, and five were taken to hospital with injuries, but none were critical, police said.

Police said they did not yet know the cause of the blaze but there was no evidence of an arsonist from outside attacking the 24-bed men's refuge. The fire began from within. Fire crews said the blaze was quickly put out but they arrived too late to save the nine.

Saxony-Anhalt state interior minister Klaus Jeziorsky said it would take time to establish the cause.

The fire was the worst in a German homeless shelter since a 1995 blaze that killed nine persons at a refuge in the town of Detmold.

Shock spread through Halberstadt, a quiet town with a population of 40,000. Fire brigade commander Harald Boeer, 52, said the charred bodies were the most ghastly sight of his 33 years of firefighting.

Michael Haase, a municipal official who oversaw the refuge, said, "It's been there since 1996. We never had any problems with it and it has always been clean."

A German lobby group for the homeless, Wohnungslosenhilfe, charged that the fire highlighted the shabby state of many refuges round Germany. Werena Rosenke said she did not know what the Halberstadt site had been like, but municipal shelters were often overcrowded.

She said many such refuges lacked kitchens, which encouraged residents to use gas-powered camping cookers. Fires were also common because homeless people could be careless with cigarettes and matches.

Another national group for the homeless said 345,000 people in Germany, population 80 million, currently sleep rough or have no homes.

DPA

Subject: German news

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