Blaze in workshop for disabled kills 14

JUERGEN BAETZ
Last updated 08:34 27/11/2012
Firemen attend the scene of a fire at a workshop for disabled people in Titisee-Neustadt in the Black Forest region in south west Germany.
Reuters
WHERE THERE'S SMOKE: Firemen attend the scene of a fire at a workshop for disabled people in Titisee-Neustadt in the Black Forest region in south west Germany.

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Fourteen people were killed and eight others injured overnight (NZ time) when a fire broke out at a workshop for disabled people in Germany's Black Forest region, authorities said.

Scores had to be rescued from the building.

More than 100 firefighters were deployed to battle the flames at the complex in Titisee-Neustadt after the fire began early Monday afternoon, said Markus Straub, a spokesman for local firefighters.

Dozens of ambulance workers were at the scene and smoke poured from the windows at the modern, three-story centre.

The centre usually has around 120 people at any one time, said Mirko Steffl, a police spokesman in the nearby city of Freiburg.

It was not immediately clear how many people had to be rescued, but by late afternoon (early today, NZ time) workers had determined that no one else remained trapped in the building, he said.

The centre, which employs people with either mental or physical disabilities in a variety of jobs including metalwork, woodwork and electrical installation, is run by the Catholic Church's Caritas organisation.

"The biggest problem this afternoon was the smoke situation," said Alfred Oschwald, another Freiburg police spokesman. Smoke inhalation is believed to be the likely cause of the 14 deaths, he told broadcaster n-tv.

Eight people were hurt, but none of them had life-threatening injuries, he said.

Some 25 psychological counsellors were assisting those rescued from the building and the victims' relatives in a nearby warehouse, Steffl said.

There was no immediate information on how the blaze started, police and firefighters said.

"It will take days to investigate what caused the fire," police spokesman Karl-Heinz Schmid said.

The mayor of Titisee-Neustadt, a popular lakeside tourist destination amid the rolling hills of the Black Forest in southwestern German Baden-Wuerttemberg state, said the center's buildings were quite new.

"It is devastating. We now have to find out how it happened," Armin Hinterseh was quoted as saying by the local daily Badische Zeitung.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is "shocked" about the loss of so many lives, her spokesman said on Twitter.

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