A giant aquarium and architectural centrepiece burst in Berlin on Friday, spilling one million litres of water, glass debris and 1,500 exotic fish through a hotel lobby and surrounding streets.
The 15.85m (52 ft) AquaDom, described as the largest free-standing cylindrical aquarium in the world, was a tourist attraction that also housed a Radisson Blu hotel and a chocolate shop.
Only two people were injured by glass splinters, and efforts were made to save some fish.
Mayor Franziska Giffey said the tank had unleashed a “veritable tsunami” of water but the early morning timing had prevented far more injuries.
“Despite all the destruction, we were still very lucky,” she said. “We would have had terrible human damage” had the aquarium burst even an hour later, once more people were awake and in the hotel and the surrounding area, she said.
Buses were sent to the complex to provide shelter for evacuated hotel guests, police said, as outside temperatures in Berlin stood around -7C at the time.
Modernisation work was carried out on the aquarium two years ago. Inside, there was a clear lift that visitors could use to look at the fish, while some of the hotel rooms boasted views of the tank.
There was speculation freezing temperatures overnight caused a crack in the acrylic glass tank, which then exploded under the weight of the water. Police said they found no evidence of a malicious act.
Sandra Weeser, a German lawmaker who was staying in the hotel, said she was woken up by a large bang and thought there might have been an earthquake. “There are shards [of glass] everywhere. The furniture, everything has been flooded with water,” she said. “It looks a bit like a war zone.”
Photos shared on social media show huge amounts of damage in the foyer of the hotel. Debris is scattered all over the street in front of the building.
The building was closed up after the incident due to flooding.
Among the 80 types of fish housed were blue tang and clownfish.
Nearly all of the 1,500 fish that were inside at the time of the rupture died, the Berlin Mitte district government confirmed via Twitter, adding “a few fish at the bottom of the tank” could still be saved.
Veterinarians, fire service officers and other officials spent the afternoon working to rescue 400 to 500 smaller fish from a separate set of aquariums housed under the hotel lobby.
Without electricity, their tanks were not receiving the necessary oxygen for them to survive, officials said. They were evacuated to other tanks in the neighbouring Sea Life aquarium that were unaffected.
“It’s a great tragedy that for 1,500 fish there was no chance of survival,” said Almut Neumann, a city official. “The focus in the afternoon was clearly on saving the fish in the remaining tanks.”
Peta tweeted that the aquarium became a “death trap” for the fish housed in it. “This man-made tragedy shows that aquariums are not a safe place for fish and other marine life,” the group wrote. Iva Yudinski, a tourist from Israel who was staying at the hotel, said she was shocked by the incident.
“Just yesterday we watched it and we were so amazed [by] its beauty,” she said. “Suddenly it’s all gone. Everything is a mess, a total mess.”
Additional reporting from Associated Press.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies