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Huge aquarium in Berlin bursts, causing a ‘tsunami’ of tropical fish

A huge aquarium in Berlin has burst, spilling debris, water and hundreds of tropical fish outside 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 shop, were damaged on Friday morning when 1 million liters (264,000 gallons) of water leaked from the aquarium just before 6 a.m. (05:00 GMT).

The Berlin fire service said two people were slightly injured.

Mayor Franziska Giffey said the incident unleashed a “true tsunami” of water, but the early morning timing prevented many more injuries.

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“Despite all the destruction, we were very lucky,” he said. “We would have had terrible human damage” if the aquarium had exploded even an hour later, once more people were awake and in and around the hotel, Giffey said.

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

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

Among the 80 types of fish it housed were the blue tang and the 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 400-500 smaller fish housed in aquariums below the hotel lobby.

Without electricity, their tanks were not getting the oxygen they needed to survive, authorities said.

“Now it’s about evacuating them quickly,” Almut Neumann, a city official in charge of environmental affairs for Berlin’s Mitte district, told German news agency DPA.

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Several organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, offered to take in the surviving fish.

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The operator of the Sea Life aquarium 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 with a single ticket.

Crack in the tank

It was speculated that subzero temperatures that dropped to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight caused a crack in the acrylic glass tank, which then burst under the weight of the water.

Police said there was no evidence that the incident 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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A dead fish lies in the rubble in front of the Radisson Blu hotel, where a huge aquarium located in the hotel lobby blew up on December 16, 2022 in Berlin.
A dead fish lies in the rubble in front of the Radisson Blu hotel in Berlin. [John MacDougall/AFP]

Sandra Weeser, a German politician staying at the hotel, said she was woken by a loud bang and thought it was due to an earthquake.

“There are fragments [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 shop and several restaurants in the same building complex, as well as an underground car park next to the hotel, were damaged in the incident.

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

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

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

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The aquarium, which was last modernized in 2020, is a major 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 stayed at the hotel, said she was shocked by the incident.

“Just yesterday, we saw it and we were so amazed [by] its beauty,” he said. “Suddenly everything is gone. It’s all a mess, a total mess.”

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