A huge aquarium in Berlin burst, spilling debris, water, and hundreds of tropical fish out of the AquaDom tourist attraction in the heart of the German capital early Friday.
According to reports more than 1 million litres (264,172 gallons) of water, around 1,500 exotic fish, and debris spills onto a major road in the busy Mitte district.
Police said parts of the building, which also contains a hotel, cafes, and a chocolate store, were damaged as 1 million liters (264,000 gallons) of water poured from the aquarium. The company that owns the AquaDom, Union Investment Real Estate, said in a statement Friday afternoon that the reasons for the incident were “still unclear.”
Around 100 emergency responders rushed to the site, a leisure complex that houses a Radisson hotel and a museum as well as what Sea Life Berlin said was the world’s largest freestanding cylindrical aquarium at 14 meters (46ft) in height.
“It felt like an earthquake,” said Naz Masraff, who had been staying at the hotel.
Another hotel guest, Sandra Weeser, spoke of chaos. “The whole aquarium burst and what’s left is total devastation. Lots of dead fish, debris,” she told.
The 1,500 fish from the aquarium died, said a spokesperson for Union Investment, which manages the real estate fund that owns the property.
Efforts are underway to rescue fish from several smaller tanks that were near the AquaDom and that escaped destruction but have been subjected to power cuts in the building, he said.
A spokesperson for the fire brigade told it was still unclear what had caused the AquaDom aquarium to burst.
Material fatigue was the likeliest cause of the incident, Berlin’s interior minister said on Friday afternoon. “Investigations are of course not yet complete, but first signs suggest we are dealing with material fatigue,” Iris Spranger told the DPA news agency.
First opened in 2003, the aquarium was overhauled as recently as 2020. A spokesperson for the company that owns the structure said additional insulation was added and the glass cylinder was polished as part of the maintenance works.
Earlier in the day, there had been speculation that overnight temperatures of as low as -10C (14F) had caused a crack in the glass, which is 18cm (7in) thick at the top and 22cm at the bottom of the cylindrical structure.
Operators said the aquarium was the biggest cylindrical tank in the world, containing 1,500 tropical fish of 80 different species before the incident. One of the highlights of the attraction was a 10-minute elevator ride through the tank, which would have taken place at 10 am.
On Friday morning, buses were sent to the complex to provide shelter for the 350 hotel guests who had been asked to evacuate the building.
Further aquariums in the building’s basement, containing between about 400 and 500 smaller fish, were not directly damaged by the incident but were without electricity on Friday afternoon. Berlin’s zoo has offered to take in any surviving fish from the hotel complex.
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