‘Like an inferno’: Three injured after huge fire at German apartment complex

A large apartment complex went up in flames in the German city of Essen early Monday morning, with fire services evacuating some 100 residents.

'Like an inferno': Three injured after huge fire at German apartment complex
Flames erupt from an apartment complex. In Essen's western district, an entire apartment block went up in flames early on Monday morning. Photo: dpa/KDF-TV | Stephan Witte

Emergency services believe they have staved off a disaster after managing to evacuate all residents of the building within roughly twenty minutes of being alerted to a fire at the complex.

Three people were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

While fire services haven’t yet accounted for all residents, they say that the number they took out “roughly adds up.”

“It’s very difficult and at times dangerous for fire teams to go in there right now and to search every apartment,” a fire services spokesman said Monday morning.

Later on Monday morning fire teams were still working to extinguish the flames.

Smoke was first reported in the building at around 2:00 am. Strong winds brought in by storm Antonia then stoked the flames, meaning that the whole building caught fire in a short time.

Questions are being raised as to how the blaze could spread through the building so quickly.

The complex was a new building from 2015 that was equipped with fire doors to prevent a fire from spreading quickly, according to the latest fire safety standards. The fire doors were last serviced in March 2021, a spokesman for the building’s owner, Vivawest Wohnen GmbH, confirmed.

The company also stated that the building’s insulation was made with mineral fiber boards, which are less susceptible to fire than polysterol insulation materials.

Vivawest said that it would put up the residents in hotel rooms at short notice at the housing company’s expense.

Fires services were still working to extinguish the flames later on Monday morning. Photo: DPA

35 year-old resident Lennart Diedrich was one of the first eyewitnesses who reported the fire.

“It was around two o’clock. I wanted to go to bed and I turned off the lights when outside some shouted ‘Fire! Fire!'” Diedrich told DPA.

“And then I looked out the window, and there was smoke coming out where the blinds were hanging at half-mast. That’s when I said, OK, this is more serious,” he added.

Diedrich described the fire being “like an inferno” as the flames ripped through the building.

After the first fire teams arrived, Diedrich and two other residents assisted them in rescuing a disabled man in a wheelchair from one of the upper floors.

“Two were at the back, I grabbed the front and we carried him down,” he recalled. “Then the police came and everything was evacuated.”

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Attackers still on run after near-fatal acid attack on German business exec

Two unidentified men who threw acid over the CFO of an energy concern on Sunday, almost killing him, were still on the loose on Monday morning.

Attackers still on run after near-fatal acid attack on German business exec
Bernhard Günther. Photo: DPA

The attack occurred on Sunday morning as, Bernhard Günther, chief financial officer with Essen-based company Innogy, was on his way to a bakery.

As he was a walking through a park in the town of Haan at around 9am, two men approached him and threw a liquid at him. The substance immediately reacted with his skin and caused serious injury.

Günther was able to run back to his home, from where he was taken to hospital for treatment. Initially the injuries were so severe that doctors described his situation as critical. But by the afternoon he was no longer considered to be in a life threatening situation.

An investigation into attempted murder has been opened. The attackers were not masked at the time of the incident and police say they possibly said something to their victim as they attacked him.

While police have not confirmed what the liquid was, they say they are working on the assumption that it was an acid.

“We are deeply shocked. News of the attack has affected us all,” Innogy CEO Uwe Tigges said. Innogy is a subsidiary of energy giant RWE.

“We are thinking of Bernhard and his family and hope that he recovers quickly,” he added.

Police have said that they cannot yet say anything about a possible motive and are “investigating in every direction.”

The Bild daily reported that the domestic security service, which is responsible for politically motivated crime, was investigating.

RWE has long been engaged in a battle with environmental protesters over its open-pit coal mining operations, including at the flashpoint forest site Hambacher Forst where activists have lived in a protest camp for years.