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Germany

Fire at Berlin Philharmonic Concert Hall Under Control

More than 100 firemen were deployed Tuesday to fight a fire that broke out simultaneously with a lunch-time concert in the venerated concert hall. They managed to get it under control by sunset.

Philharmonic burning

Streets around the Philharmonic were closed off

A fire which broke out Tuesday afternoon at Berlin's Philharmonie, the concert hall that is home to the Berlin Philharmonic, was under control before sunset, Berlin Fire Chief Wilfried Graefling said.

The fire was, however, still smouldering, and the damage was considerable, he told Berlin's regional public broadcaster rbb.

Graefling said the fire had broken out in the iconic golden building at around 2 p.m. while repairs to the roof were being carried out. A police spokeswoman said a probe into the cause was underway.

Fireman on Philharmonic roof

Firemen battled the blaze all afternoon

By mid-afternoon, a pall of brown smoke hung over the area close to Berlin's central Tiergarten park.

Fire crews were expected to work into the night to douse the fire completely.

"But things will not deteriorate," Graefling said. He added that the concrete roof of the 45-year-old building had held, and that damage from the water used to douse the fire was thus limited.

Musicians evacuated expensive instruments from the building, which also houses a musical instrument museum.

The fire alert began only an hour before the famous orchestra, an adult choir and 400 children were to have begun a joint rehearsal for a concert to take place Friday night. The building was cleared, and nobody was injured.

Philharmonic

An aerial view showed the extent of the fire

Firefighters spent hours ripping off parts of the golden sheet-metal roof to gain access to burning insulation.

The hall's chief executive, Pamela Rosenberg, said Claudio Abbado, who retired as conductor of the orchestra in 2002, had been in the building at the time the blaze began, preparing for a comeback program from Friday to Sunday.

Sir Simon Rattle, the orchestra's regular conductor, was in France, she added.

The 2,200-seat building, designed by Hans Scharoun, opened in 1963 on the West Berlin side of the Berlin Wall.

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