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Berlin: Massive aquarium home to 1,500 fish bursts

December 16, 2022

More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene at the Radisson Blu complex in the German capital's Mitte district. The 16-meter aquarium houses 1,500 tropical fish. Two people have so far been reported injured.

The Dom Aquaree, located beside a Radisson hotel in a busy tourist area of the Mitte district
One million litres of water has spilled over onto the street outside the hotel Image: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

A 16-meter (52-foot) high aquarium has burst at a hotel in downtown Berlin, injuring two people, German rescue services said on Friday.

More than 100 first responders had been called in to deal with the damage at the complex which houses the Radisson Blu hotel in the German capital's Mitte district. The cause of the incident was still unclear, Berlin's fire service said.

"The aquarium is damaged, water is leaking. The situation is not clear at the moment," the Berlin fire brigade wrote on Twitter.

"In addition to the unbelievable maritime damage... two people were injured by glass splinters," Berlin police tweeted.

Mayor Franziska Giffey described the burst tank as a "veritable tsunami" but pointed out that things could have been worse.

"Despite all the destruction, we were still very lucky,'' she said. "We would have had terrible human damage'' if the aquarium had burst just an hour later when more people would have been up and walking around.

Berlin aquarium bursts, releasing 1 million liters of water

What do we know so far?

At around 5:45 a.m. local time (0445 GMT) there was a very loud noise and parts of the facade of the hotel where the aquarium was located flew onto the street, a police spokesman was reported as saying in local media outlet RBB.

Berlin's traffic agency VIZ said an extremely large volume of water had spilled over onto the street outside while Berlin police said "massive amounts of water" have flowed onto the street.

Littered with debris, the area has been largely cordoned off while the street on which the hotel is located — Karl-Liebknecht Strasse — has been closed off.

An investigator on the street outside a hotel after a burst and leak of the AquaDom aquarium in central Berlin
The cause of the incident was unclearImage: Christoph Soeder/dpa/picture alliance

"All 400 guests who were staying at the Radisson hotel have been evacuated," DW correspondent Anna Saraste tweeted on Friday morning. "They are waiting to be transported to another hotel in Berlin."

"Police are still investigating what caused the aquarium to shatter," she continued. "Presently, they don’t believe it was a criminal act."

Outside temperatures in the German capital have plummeted in recent days, with Friday morning's gauged at around -7 degrees Celsius (19.4°F).

Eye-witnesses speak of 'shards' and 'dead fish'

"Everything is destroyed inside," two hotel guests, Karin Wicki and Sandra Hoffmann, told News agency dpa. "There are dead fish. All the furniture is destroyed. The windows are destroyed. Shards of glass everywhere."

"You could see that the whole thing had fallen apart," said another young hotel guest.

Most of the 1,500 fish from the aquarium died, said a spokesperson for Union Investment, which manages the real estate fund that owns the property.

The Berlin Mitte district government said some fish at the bottom of the tank may have survived. Another 400 to 500 fish were being housed in separate tanks under the hotel lobby but had to be evacuated as their tanks had lost electricity.

"It's a great tragedy that for 1,500 fish there was no chance of survival,'' Almut Neumann, the district's official responsible for environmental issues, said. "The focus in the afternoon was clearly on saving the fish in the remaining tanks."

Berlin Zoo, among other organizations, agreed to take in the surviving fish.

'World's largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium'

The DomAquaree building lies just 350 meters from Berlin Cathedral and houses the Sea Life aquarium along with the so-called AquaDom, a giant tank that was home to some 1,500 tropical fish species.

The aquarium was filled with one million liters of salt water, equating to 1,000 cubic meters of water weighing 1,000 metric tons.

The AquaDom stood in the leisure complex that houses a Radisson hotel and a museum as well as what Sea Life Berlin
It was the world's largest freestanding cylindrical aquariumImage: Annette Riedl/dpa/picture alliance

A popular tourist attraction, the AquaDom is "the world's largest freestanding cylindrical aquarium," according to the DomAquaree website.

The 10-minute elevator ride through the aquarium was one of the highlights of the attraction.

ab, jsi/es (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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