Fire kills 14 at German workshop for disabled

Some people were trapped inside by heavy smoke, as Steve Evans reports

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Fourteen people have been killed and eight injured in a major fire at a workshop for disabled people in south-western Germany.

The blaze occurred at the centre run by the Caritas charity in the Black Forest town of Titisee-Neustadt, some 40km (25 miles) east of Freiburg.

About 50 people were believed to be in the building when the fire started.

The cause is unclear, but local media reports that there may have been an explosion in a store room.

The centre is reportedly used for woodwork and metalwork, but it is not known whether there were any flammable materials on site.

'Devastating'

Start Quote

It is devastating - we now have to find out how it happened”

End Quote Armin Hinterseh Mayor of Titisee-Neustadt

The blaze occurred at about 14:00 local time (13:00 GMT), and flames were first spotted on the roof of the modern three-storey building.

Alexander Widmaier, of the local fire department, said his firefighters were on the scene within six minutes but a "massive" amount of smoke had filled the building "extremely quickly".

More than 100 firefighters backed by helicopters tackled the blaze - some, wearing breathing apparatus, braved the thick smoke to rescue a number of people trapped inside.

But police confirmed that not every one made it out.

"We can tell you that we have 14 dead. The process of identification is ongoing," local police spokesman Karl-Heinz Schmid told N24 television. He said it would "take days" for the investigation to get to the cause of the fire.

The number of wounded has risen from seven to eight, but none are thought to be suffering from life-threatening injuries.

Map

The centre is run by Caritas, a relief organisation affiliated with the Catholic Church, and offers a range of workshops to people with both mental and physical disabilities.

"We know the colleagues at the scene will do everything to find out the cause for this terrible event," Caritas president Peter Neher was quoted by AFP news agency as saying.

Police have spoken of the bewilderment of many of the survivors by what had happened.

The town's mayor Armin Hinterseh said the buildings were quite new. "It is devastating. We now have to find out how it happened," he told the local daily Badische Zeitung.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said on Twitter that she was "shocked" by the loss of so many lives.

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