A huge explosion at the Berlin Aquarium, unleashing a flood of destruction

Berlin — A massive aquarium in Berlin exploded, spilling debris, water and more than a thousand tropical fish from the AquaDom tourist attraction in the heart of the German capital early Friday.

Police said parts of the building, which also contains a hotel, cafes and a chocolate shop, were damaged when one million liters (264,000 gallons) of water gushed out of the basin shortly before 6:00 am (0500 GMT). The Berlin fire service said two people were slightly injured.

The company that owns Aqua Dome, Union Investment Real Estate, said in a statement Friday afternoon that the causes of the accident “remain unclear.”

The city’s mayor, Franzisca Giffe, said the accident unleashed a “real tsunami” of water but the early morning timing prevented more injuries.

“Despite all the devastation, we were very lucky,” she said. “We could have suffered massive human damage,” she said, “had the aquarium exploded an hour later, and as soon as people in the hotel and the surrounding area woke up.”

The 25-metre (82 ft) tall AquaDom has been described as the largest cylindrical tank in the world and was home to over a thousand tropical fish prior to the accident. Among the 80 species of fish it contained were blue tangs and clownfish, two colorful species known from the popular animated movie “Finding Nemo”.

“Unfortunately, none of the 1,500 fish were saved,” said Giffy.

Efforts were underway Friday afternoon to save the 400 to 500 smaller fish that are in the aquariums under the hotel lobby. Officials said their tanks without electricity are not receiving the oxygen they need to survive.

“Now it is a question of quickly evacuating them,” Almut Neumann, a city official in charge of environmental issues for Berlin’s Mitte district, told dpa.

Various organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, offered to take the surviving fish.

Sea Life, the aquarium’s operator, said it was saddened by the incident and was trying to get more information about the incident from the AquaDom’s owners.

The private Sea Life aquarium is located in the same building and visitors can tour it and the AquaDom with a single ticket.

There was speculation that freezing temperatures that dropped to minus 10 °C (14 °F) overnight caused a crack in the acrylic glass tank, which then burst under the weight of the water. Police said there was no evidence that the accident was the result of foul play.

Police said about 300 guests and staff were evacuated from the hotel surrounding the basin.

Sandra Weisser, a German lawmaker who was staying at the hotel, said she was awakened by a big bang and thought there might be an earthquake.

“There are shards (of glass) everywhere. The furniture, everything, was flooded,” she said. It looks like a war zone.”

Police said a Lindt chocolate store and several restaurants in the same building complex, as well as an underground parking garage next to the hotel, sustained damage. A fire service spokesman said building safety experts were assessing the hotel’s structural damage.

Hours after the accident, trucks began clearing the rubble that had spilled onto the street in front of the hotel. Brightly colored Lindt chocolate wrappers were strewn in front of the building where the chocolate shop was damaged. A small crowd of tourists and onlookers took pictures from behind the police line across the street.

The aquarium, which was last updated in 2020, is a major tourist attraction in Berlin. One of the highlights of the attraction was the 10-minute elevator ride through the tropical reservoir.

Animal rights group PETA tweeted Thursday that the aquarium has become a “death trap” for the fish in it. “This man-made tragedy shows that aquariums are not a safe place for fish and other marine life,” they wrote.

Eva Yudinsky, an Israeli tourist who was staying at the hotel, said she was shocked by the incident

She said, “Just yesterday we saw her and were so amazed at her beauty. Suddenly it was all gone. Everything is a mess, a complete mess.”

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