Copenhagen fire: spire of historic stock exchange collapses in inferno

Rescuers race to save valuable paintings from 17th-century building as blaze sends smoke over Danish capital

Barney Davis
Tuesday 16 April 2024 21:28 BST
Blaze engulfs Copenhagen’s 17th-century stock exchange as 180ft spire collapses

A spire on one of Copenhagen’s oldest buildings collapsed in flames in what Denmark has described as its “Notre Dame moment”.

The roof of the 17th-century stock exchange, or Boersen, which was once the country’s financial centre, was engulfed in flames before collapsing on Tuesday.

The building, which is situated next to the Christiansborg Palace where the parliament sits, is a popular tourist attraction with its distinctive spire, in the shape of the tails of four dragons entwined together, reaching a height of 56 metres.

Danish ministers compared the incident to the 2019 blaze that consumed the Parisian cathedral.

Flames wrap around the dragon spire (EPA)

Huge billows of smoke rose over downtown Copenhagen and people were seen rushing inside the building to save paintings. Danish media reported that an annexe of the parliament was being evacuated.

Fire hits historical stock exchange building in Copenhagen (EPA)

Police and firefighters were at work outside the building, which was encased in scaffolding. Ambulances were at the scene but there were no reports of casualties.

On Tuesday, the Danish fire service said it had saved one half of the building from fire but there was a risk the damaged side could collapse.

A spokesperson told The Independent: “The other half has burnt out. The outer shell still remains and right now we are still putting out fires in small pockets.

“There is a risk it could collapse. The plan is to stabilise the outer shell and walls using 40 shipping containers. We will start doing this tonight and over the next few days.”

Danish culture minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said it was “touching” to see how passers-by helped emergency services “to save art treasures and iconic images from the burning building”.

A painting is salvaged from the flames of the Boersen stock exchange building in Copenhagen during Tuesday’s fire (Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima)

A video showed the flaming spire breaking in half as it tumbled down, sending a large part crashing to the ground next to a fire truck.

Firefighters exit the burning innards of the building (Getty)

The Danish Chamber of Commerce has its headquarters in the building, which was built in the early 1600s. The chamber’s head, Brian Mikkelsen, was among those helping to carry paintings out of the building.

“Everybody is crying at the Danish Chamber of Commerce right now. It’s their workplace, but also their history,” Mikkelsen told reporters, shaking his head in disbelief.

The Danish Chamber of Commerce has its headquarters in the building (EPA)

“It’s our cultural heritage that I’m looking at. It’s 400 years that have shaped Danish cultural history and the society we live in today.”

As sirens wailed, thick grey smoke rose above the city. Around 90 conscripts from the Royal Life Guards, an army unit, were helping cordon off and secure valuables, the military said.

The building was originally built to accommodate stalls where goods such as tea and spices were traded.

“It was imagined that a lot of gold would be generated for Denmark and that’s why they put dragons above it because they are known to guard gold,” said the senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, Ulla Kjaer.

Fire at the old stock exchange, Boersen, in Copenhagen (Reuters)

The spire also had three crowns at the top, symbolising the great kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, she added.

“This spire is absolutely iconic and there is no other like it in the world,” Kjaer said.

Flames and smoke rise from the old stock exchange in Copenhagen (EPA)

“An important part of our architectural heritage was and still is in flames,” King Frederik wrote in a post on Instagram.

“For generations, the characteristic dragon spire has helped to characterise Copenhagen as the ‘city of towers’.”

The 17th-century building before the fire (AP)

Defence minister Troels Lund Poulsen wrote on X/Twitter: “Horrible pictures from the Bourse. So sad. An iconic building that means a lot to all of us ... Our own Notre-Dame moment.”

The cause of the fire first reported at 7.30am was not immediately known.

“The extinguishing work is very difficult,” said firefighters’ spokesperson Jakob Vedsted Andersen, adding that there are parts of the building that the firefighters cannot enter because it is too dangerous.

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