A large Berlin aquarium exploded outside the AquaDom tourist attraction in the center of the German capital earlier this Friday (12.16.2022), spilling debris, water and more than a thousand tropical fish.
Parts of the building, which houses the Radisson hotel, cafes and a chocolate shop, were damaged after one million liters (264,000 gallons) of water from the aquarium spilled shortly before 6 a.m. (0500 GMT), police said. According to the Berlin Fire Department, two people suffered minor injuries.
According to guests, a loud bang was heard at the hotel shortly before 5:45 a.m. (0445 GMT), and parts of the building’s facade were thrown onto the street by the force of water and debris.
Possible material fatigue?
Aquadome, the company that owns Union Investment Real Estate, said in a statement Friday afternoon that the cause of the incident was “still unclear.”
In the same way, police and firefighters assure that although there is talk of possible material exhaustion, the cause is not yet clear. “Of course, the investigation into the cause has not yet been concluded, but the first signs point to material fatigue,” they explained to dpa.
According to DomAquaree resort’s website, the aquarium was last renovated in 2020. During the development work, all the water in the tank was drained and the fish were transferred to the aquarium in the basement of the building, where the aquarium maintenance center is located.
The aquarium is one of the main tourist magnets in Berlin. A 10-minute elevator ride through the tropical tank is one of the highlights of the attraction.
“The Real Tsunami”
Mayor Franziska Giffey declared the incident unleashed a “veritable tsunami” of water, but the fact that it occurred early in the morning prevented many injuries.
“Despite all the destruction, we are very lucky,” he declared. “We would have suffered a terrible human toll” if the aquarium had exploded even after an hour when people in and around the hotel were already awake.
Fire officials said only a small amount of water was found in the basement, so most of it likely leaked through floor-to-ceiling doors into the street and street drains.
Authorities used rescue dogs to search for people on the destroyed floor. About 100 emergency personnel were at the scene.
World’s largest cylindrical tank
At 25 meters tall, the AquaDom was described as the world’s largest cylindrical tank and was home to more than a thousand tropical fish before the incident. Among the 80 species of fish housed there are blue tang and clown fish, two colorful fish made famous by the popular animated film “Finding Nemo.”
“Unfortunately, none of the 1,500 fish could be saved,” Kiffi said.
By Friday afternoon they were trying to save another 400-500 small fish kept in aquariums under the hotel lobby. Without electricity, their tanks are not getting the oxygen they need to survive, officials said.
“Now it’s a matter of getting them out quickly,” Almut Neumann, the municipal official responsible for environmental affairs in Berlin’s Mitte district, told the German news agency.
Several organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, offered to acquire the remaining fish.
Speculation about causes
The aquarium operator, Sea Life, regretted the incident and sought more information from the Aquadome’s owners. The Sea Life Aquarium is located in the same building and visitors can visit it with the AquaDom with a single ticket.
It was speculated that the freezing temperatures may have had some adverse effect on the acrylic glass tank, which cracked under the weight of the water. But the causes of the phenomenon are yet to be identified. Police said there was no evidence of foul play in the incident.
About 300 guests and staff had to be evacuated from the hotel around the aquarium, police said, as outside temperatures in Berlin were minus 7 degrees Celsius (19.4°F) in the morning and buses were sent to shelter hotel guests.
Radisson said in an email to members of its Radisson Rewards loyalty club that the Radisson Collection Hotel Berlin is closed until further notice.
German lawmaker Sandra Wieser, who was staying at the hotel, said she was woken up by a loud noise and thought it might have been an earthquake.
“There are pieces of (glass) everywhere. Furniture, everything is submerged in water,” he said. “It looks like a war zone.”
Lindt chocolate wrappers on the street
A Lindt chocolate shop and several restaurants in the same building complex and an underground car park adjacent to the hotel were also damaged, police said. A fire service spokesman said building safety experts were assessing the extent of the hotel’s damage.
A few hours after the incident, trucks started clearing the debris strewn on the street in front of the hotel. Brightly colored Lindt chocolate wrappers were scattered in front of the chocolate shop’s damaged building. A small crowd of tourists and onlookers were taking photos from behind a police arch crossing the street.
A cylindrical Aquadome is located in the lobby of the Hotel Radisson SAS in Berlin-Mitte, opposite the Berlin Cathedral.
Emergency services closed a major road near the campus, leading from Alexanderplatz to the Brandenburg Gate, because of the large amount of water overflowing from the building.
Animal rights group PETA tweeted on Thursday that the aquarium had become a “death trap” for the fish housed in it. “This man-made tragedy demonstrates that aquariums are not a safe place for fish and other marine life,” they wrote.
Israeli tourist Eva Yudinsky, who was staying at the hotel, said she was shocked by the incident.
“We saw it only yesterday and we were amazed by its beauty,” he said. “Suddenly everything is gone, everything is a mess, a total mess.”
Some (AP, Reuters, DPA)
“Wannabe web geek. Alcohol expert. Certified introvert. Zombie evangelist. Twitter trailblazer. Communicator. Incurable tv scholar.”