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Germany

Berlin Philharmonic Fire Damage Not as Bad as Feared

Damage from the blaze at the Berlin Philharmonic this week is not as bad as initially feared -- and the all-important main auditorium escaped harm, officials and the fire brigade said on Thursday, May 22.

Firemen extinguish the blaze on the roof of the building

It could have been worse

Andre Schmitz, state secretary for culture in Berlin's city government, said the worst fears had not been confirmed.

The main auditorium had no visible damage and chances were good that it would open again "very quickly," he said.

He told InfoRadio that the fire was caused by repair work being carried out on the roof and had destroyed some 1,600 square meters (17,200 square feet) of the roof.

Experts have confirmed there is no risk that the building will collapse.

"Water damage [from putting out the fire] on the whole is light and does not concern the main auditorium," a spokesman for the Berlin fire brigade told AFP news agency.

However, according to police sources, the damage incurred will still cost millions of euros.

Negligence?

The blaze began in the early afternoon on Tuesday, just as a lunchtime concert in the foyer was coming to an end. Several hundred concert-goers along with musicians clutching their instruments were evacuated, and all escaped injury.

Smoke poured out from the roof of the golden, wing-tipped building in the heart of the capital and was only extinguished fully the following morning.

An investigation into the cause began Wednesday.

According to a police spokesperson, negligent arson has not been ruled out.

Business as usual

Meanwhile, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's director, Pamela Rosenberg, announced Wednesday that business as usual would be resuming on June 2.

For the time being, two eagerly awaited Beethoven and Berlioz concerts with renowned Italian conductor Claudio Abbado scheduled for the weekend are to be held at the Waldbuehne venue instead.

The 500 firemen and police deployed during the blaze have been given free tickets.

"The location of any blaze is irrelevant to our firefighters," said firefighter spokesman Jen-Peter Wilke. "Their sole goal is to extinguish it. But on Tuesday it was apparent that the team was very aware that this is a building with special significance, and they were more motivated than ever."

Landmark

Designed by architect Hans Scharoun and opened in 1963, the Philharmonic has hosted some of the world's greatest conductors, including Herbert von Karajan. The orchestra's current principal conductor is Britain's Simon Rattle.

The auditorium's acoustics are considered to be among the best in the world and its design influenced the construction of many other concert halls.

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