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9 Apr, 2023 11:56

Officials warn of toxic smoke cloud after Hamburg fire

Emergency services have told citizens to remain indoors and switch off air conditioning units
Officials warn of toxic smoke cloud after Hamburg fire

Residents of Hamburg have been alerted to a toxic smoke cloud drifting towards the center of the northern German port city, due to a large fire on Sunday morning that could “affect the air we breathe,” according to local officials.

“The population in the Hamburg area can be affected by smoke gases and chemical components in the breathing air due to a fire,” read an official warning from the Hamburg fire department, which described the alert level as “extreme danger,” saying “the cloud of smoke is moving towards the city center.”

According to reports from local media, a major fire engulfed “several warehouses” in the Rothenburgsort district of the Hamburg-Mitte borough in a blaze understood to have begun at around 4.30am local time on Sunday. Numerous explosions were heard, and images on social media have shown plumes of smoke billowing into the air.

“Hamburg city center is completely blacked out,” a spokesperson for the fire department told DPA news agency. The spokesperson added that “this is a really extraordinary, difficult operation.” Residents have been advised to close their doors and windows and refrain from leaving their homes, and also to switch off ventilation and air conditioning units.

No casualties have as yet been reported, and officials have not indicated a cause for the blaze. The fire department noted that containers of flammable liquids at a truck stop were involved – with German publication NDR reporting that hydrogen sulfide was among the stored chemicals. NDR added that the fire was initially relatively small, but that it spread due to problems in seeking a water supply to extinguish the flames.

The fire department spokesperson said that around 210 emergency workers, many of whom are equipped with special breathing apparatus, are on the scene. He said fire services expected to be battling the fire throughout Sunday.

An investigation into the cause of the fire will be launched once it is fully extinguished. Rail services and other local forms of transport have been restricted or delayed as a result.