Deadly fire at Germany workshop 'caused by gas leak'

  • 27 November 2012
  • From the section Europe
A women lights a candle at a Caritas employment facility for the handicapped where a fire killed 14 people on November 27
Image caption Firefighters said that smoke from the blaze had spread very quickly

A fire which killed 14 people on Monday at a workshop for disabled people in south-western Germany was the fault of a gas leak, investigators say.

An inquiry into possible charges of manslaughter by negligence has been opened into the blaze, in the Black Forest town of Titisee-Neustadt.

Police say all 14 people who died have now been identified.

The centre, where disabled people were working on ornaments for Christmas markets, is run by the Caritas charity.

The fire, it is now known, began in one room, and did not affect the entire building.

A day after the fire, the building in which it took place shows little sign of damage, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports from Titisee-Neustadt.

However, the blaze caused thick smoke to spread very quickly, overcoming those who died, our correspondent adds.

'Terrible event'

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

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

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.

Eight people were hurt; none are thought to be suffering from life-threatening injuries.

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 said in a statement posted on the organisation's German website.

Police have spoken of the bewilderment of many of the survivors over what happened.

"I don't know anything in the past that was so horrible as this, in the whole region, not only in our town," Titisee-Neustadt's mayor Armin Hinterseh told the BBC.

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

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