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Disasters

Workshop fire in Germany caused by gas leak

Officials have announced that a gas leak caused the fire that killed 14 people in a workshop for disabled people in southwestern Germany. How the gas leak occurred is still unknown.

Blaze marks are seen at a window of a workshop for disabled people in Titisee-Neustadt, in the Black Forest region in south west Germany November 27, 2012. Fourteen people died on Monday after a fire broke out in the workshop. The cause of the blaze is not yet known, police said. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner (GERMANY - Tags: DISASTER)

Explosion Behindertenwerkstatt Titisee Neustadt

Gas escaped from a furnace then ignited, state prosecutor Peter Haeberle told a press conference in the town of Titisee-Neustadt on Tuesday.

Investigators assess cause of the fire

"How the gas came to be leaked is still unclear," Haeberle said.

Around 120 mentally or physically challenged people worked at the facility run by the Catholic charity Caritas in the town of Titisee-Neustadt. It employs them in a number of jobs including metalwork, woodwork and electrical installation work.

No sprinklers

The blaze started suddenly on Monday and spread surprisingly quickly. Thirteen of the victims were workers, while the fourteenth victim was a caretaker. Nine other people were also injured.

The building was not equipped with sprinklers, which has triggered a discussion in Germany about raising the safety standards at facilities for disabled people.

"Everything needs to be looked over," said Caritas President Peter Neher in an interview with German public broadcaster ZDF on Tuesday. "Even when previous experience said that everything was in place so you could assume such a catastrophe couldn't have happened."

Calls for safety shake-up

The board chairman of the German Hospice Foundation, Eugen Brysch, called for an increase in the safety requirements of care centers.

"What is already required in German airports must also be required for care and disability facilities," he said in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung newspaper.

In April 1996, a fire in the arrivals hall at Düsseldorf International Airport claimed 17 lives. Many victims were trapped in thick smoke. Investigators later blamed the use of false building materials and inadequate safety procedures.

mz/ipj (KNA, epd, dpa, AFP)

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