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A huge aquarium in Berlin has burst, spilling debris, water and hundreds of tropical fish 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 on Friday morning as 1 million litres (264,000 gallons) of water poured from the aquarium shortly before 6am (05:00 GMT).

Berlin’s fire service said two people were slightly injured.

Mayor Franziska Giffey said the incident unleashed a “veritable tsunami” of water, but the early morning timing 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, Giffey said.

The 25-metre-tall (82-feet-tall) AquaDom was described as the world’s largest cylindrical tank and held more than a thousand tropical fish before the incident.

A view shows the AquaDom aquarium after it burst, in central Berlin
A view shows the AquaDom after it burst in this still image obtained from a social media video [Niklas Scheele via Reuters]

Among the 80 types of fish, it housed were blue tang and clownfish, two colourful species known from the popular animated movie “Finding Nemo”.

“Unfortunately, none of the 1,500 fish could be saved,” Giffey said.

Efforts were being made 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 organisations, 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 the incident from the owners of the AquaDom.

Sea Life’s own aquarium is located in the same building and visitors can tour it and the AquaDom on a single ticket.

Crack in the tank

There was speculation freezing temperatures that got down to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight caused a crack in the acrylic glass tank, which then exploded under the weight of the water.

Police said there was no evidence the incident resulted from an attack.

About 300 guests and employees had to be evacuated from the hotel surrounding the aquarium, police said.

A dead fish lies in the debris in front of the Radisson Blu hotel, where a huge aquarium located in the hotel's lobby burst on December 16, 2022 in Berlin
A dead fish lies in the debris in front of the Radisson Blu hotel in Berlin [John MacDougall/AFP]

Sandra Weeser, a German politician who was staying in the hotel, said she was awoken by a loud bang and thought it was due to 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, sustained damage from the incident.

Building safety

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 the debris that had spilled out onto the street in front of the hotel.

Brightly coloured Lindt chocolate wrappers were scattered in front of the building where the chocolate shop had been damaged.

A small crowd of tourists and onlookers snapped photos from behind the police line across the street.

The aquarium, which was last modernised in 2020, is a significant tourist magnet in Berlin.

The 10-minute elevator ride through the tropical tank was one of the highlights of the attraction.

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.”


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