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Germany: Explosion, fire at refugee accommodation facility

July 8, 2024

German police have reported an explosion and fire at a facility housing asylum seekers. The blast took place as police were investigating reports of a fire hazard. Two officers were injured, and one dead body was found.

A police officer standing in front of a damaged building in Buchholz in der Nordheide in northern Germany, after an explosion and fire at the site. July 8, 2024.
Police said that officers could smell gasoline as they entered the building, shortly before the explosionImage: Georg Wendt/dpa/picture alliance

Police in northern Germany on Monday reported an explosion and large fire at a building housing asylum seekers in Buchholz in der Nordheide, just south of Hamburg in Lower Saxony.

Officers had been called to the scene after tips of a possible fire hazard around midday. 

Officers smelt gasoline on entry

Police from the larger nearby town of Harburg said in an initial statement that two police officers, accompanied by two employees at the facility, entered the building, "in which they soon perceived the smell of gasoline." 

"There was a sudden explosion in the building. The facility was set fully on fire as a result of this. Several people were injured, some of them seriously," police said. "In the building one lifeless body has since been found, which is yet to be identified."

Police said the injured were either tended to on site or sent to medical facilities, depending on their needs. 

All available fire crews, rescue teams and police had deployed to the site, they said, asking people to avoid the area. 

The damaged exterior of a building that houses asylum seekers in Buchholz in der Nordheide in northern Germany after an explosion and fire at the site. July 8, 2024.
Police said an investigation into the cause of the fire would follow as soon as possibleImage: Georg Wendt/dpa/picture alliance

Investigation pending, emergency workers still securing scene

In an update around two hours later, police said that the fire-extinguishing and the rescue work on site was complete. 

"In total, 20 people were injured, one of them seriously," police said. This included both the officers who originally deployed to the scene and one of the two employees at the facility. 

The later statement also clarified that the dead person found was a woman. 

Police said that "detailed evidence-gathering and investigations into the cause of the fire" would start as soon as possible once the fire and its aftermath was dealt with. 

msh/wd (AFP, epd, dpa)

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Editor's note: Later information provided by German authorities found that the person who died in the explosion and fire was not a woman, but rather a 28-year-old man from Ethiopia