TITISEE-NEUSTADT: An explosion following a gas leak triggered a fierce blaze in a workshop for the disabled in Germany which killed 14 people, officials said yesterday.
All but one of the dead from the fire which began on Monday at the centre in the southwestern town of Titisee-Neustadt in Germany’s Black Forest region were handicapped, police said.
A 50-year-old female carer was also killed, they said, while another nine people were badly hurt and a further five suffered more minor injuries, officials said.
Initial indications suggested the fire was sparked by an explosion after gas escaped from a heater for unknown reasons and ignited, a spokesman for the Freiburg public prosecutor’s office told a news conference. “The investigations are in this respect not finished,” Peter Haeberle said.
A preliminary investigation against unknown persons into suspected negligent manslaughter and negligent arson has been opened but does not mean prosecutors already have suspicions in this direction, he said.
“Everything’s pointing to an accident,” he added. President of Freiburg’s government Baerbel Schaefer said the fire protection precautions at the workshop had been “absolutely correct” and the rescue operation had been “exemplary”.
Hundreds of firefighters backed by helicopters had battled the fire at the workshop run by the Roman Catholic Caritas welfare association for the mentally and physically disabled which made Christmas decorations among other things.
Candles have been placed outside the modern building whose windows were broken, and police stood at the entrance while more officers combed through the blackened interior.
Up to 60 people were in the centre at the time of the fire, which broke out just before 2pm (1300 GMT) and spread quickly, damaging one floor of the site in Titisee-Neustadt, about 35km from the city of Freiburg.
Among the dead were 13 disabled people, of whom 10 were women. They were all aged between 28 and 68, according to a police statement.