A huge aquarium in Berlin burst Friday, causing glass, water and hundreds of tropical fish to spill out of the AquaDom tourist attraction in the heart of the German capital.
Police said parts of the building, which also contains a hotel, cafes and a chocolate store, were damaged as about 264,000 gallons of water poured out of the 82-foot-tall aquarium shortly before 6 a.m., police said. Berlin’s fire service said two people were lightly injured.
The company that owns the AquaDom, Union Investment Real Estate, said in a statement Friday that the cause of the incident was “still unclear.”
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey said the tank explosion 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.
The AquaDom was described as the biggest cylindrical tank in the world and held more than 1,000 tropical fish. Among the 80 types of fish it housed were blue tang and clownfish, two colorful species known from the popular animated movie “Finding Nemo.”
“Unfortunately, none of the 1,500 fish could be saved,” Giffey said.
Efforts were underway to save an additional 400 to 500 smaller fish housed in aquariums underneath the hotel lobby. Without electricity, their tanks were not receiving the necessary oxygen for them to survive, officials said.
“Now it’s about evacuating them quickly,” Almut Neumann, a city official in charge of environmental issues for Berlin’s Mitte district, told German news agency DPA.
Various organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, offered to take in the surviving fish.
Aquarium operator Sea Life said it was saddened by the incident and was trying to get more information about what happened from the owners of the AquaDom.
Sea Life’s own aquarium is in the same building, and visitors were able to tour it and the AquaDom on a single ticket.
There was speculation that freezing temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit overnight had caused a crack in the tank, which then exploded from the pressure of the water.
Police said the cause of the incident was still being investigated, but there was no evidence that it was the result of an attack.
About 300 guests and employees had to be evacuated from the hotel surrounding the aquarium, police said.
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Sandra Weeser, a German lawmaker who was staying in the hotel, said she was awakened by a large bang and thought that 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.”
Police said a Lindt chocolate store and several restaurants in the same building complex, as well as an underground parking garage next to the hotel, were damaged in the incident. A fire service spokesman said building safety experts were assessing the extent to which the hotel had sustained structural damage.
Hours after the incident, trucks began clearing away debris that had spilled onto the street in front of the hotel. Brightly colored Lindt chocolate wrappers were scattered in front of the building where the shop is located. A small crowd of onlookers snapped photos from behind the police line across the street.
The aquarium, which was last modernized in 2020, is a major tourist magnet in Berlin. The 10-minute elevator ride through the tank was one of the highlights of the attraction.
Animal rights group PETA said on Twitter that the aquarium had become 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,” it tweeted.
Iva Yudinski, a tourist from Israel who had been 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.”