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Deadly fire at German workshop for disabled

At least 14 people killed in a major blaze at a workshop for handicapped people in south-western Germany.
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2012 19:50

Fourteen people have reportedly died in a fire at a workshop which employs handicapped people in Germany.

Seven people were also injured in the fire, which broke out on Monday in the small town of Titisee-Neustadt in the southwest of the country, according to local news agency DPA.

"We can tell you that we have 14 dead. The process of identification is ongoing," said Karl-Heinz Schmid, a spokesman for police in the nearby city of Freiburg.

"We also have a large number of injured who have been taken to hospital." Most of the injured suffered from smoke inhalation, but all are expected to recover, said officials.

The fire broke out around 2:00pm (1300GMT), according to media reports and had still not been extinguished nearly two hours later.

Police were unable to determine the cause of the fire which broke out in a workshop housing some 120 people with disabilities in the country's Black Forest region.

DPA quoted a source as saying there had been an explosion in a storage room.

It remains unclear whether chemicals were stored there, but workers at the site are known to treat wood with protective finishings.

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull reported that the factory, operated by the Catholic charity Caritas - named for the Latin term for the virtue of charity - was a modern facility. It will be days before officials know the cause of the fire, but there has been no suggestion of arson, he said.

Several people were removed from the building by firefighters wearing breathing apparatus, according to Focus magazine.

Caritas President Peter Neher said: "We know the colleagues at the scene will do everything to find out the cause for this terrible event."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted that she was "appalled" by the fire and was receiving updates from Winfried Kretschmann, the state premier of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where the fire took place.

Kretschmann himself said: "My thoughts go out to the victims and my deepest condolences go to their families. The whole of Baden-Wuerttemberg mourns with them."

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