The largest free-standing aquarium in the world, which housed about 1,500 exotic fish, burst on Friday morning in Berlin, Germany, flooding public streets with water, debris and dead marine life.
The popular tourist attraction, the AquaDom, is located in the Sea Life Center amid a Radisson hotel, a museum and several retail shops. The 14-metre-high cylindrical tank held 1 million litres of water and housed 80 different species of fish before the burst.
The mayor of Berlin, Franziska Giffey, confirmed that “none of the 1,500 fish could be saved.”
The tank exploded just before 6 a.m. after a night of freezing temperatures in Berlin, The Guardian reported. Water rushed out of the building and onto the main road, forcing lamps, bellhop trolleys and retail merchandise into the street.
Berlin police claimed two people were taken to hospital with minor injuries from glass splinters. Rescue dogs will search the building for anyone potentially trapped under the debris.
The New York Times reported about 100 firefighters were on the scene to close the flooded road, evacuate hotel guests and assess the damage.
When hotel guests were evacuated from the Radisson this morning, many claimed to see dead, frozen fish strewn across the sidewalk.
One hotel guest told a local German news station, as per the New York Times, that she thought a small earthquake had occurred when the tank exploded. She also said she had seen a dead parrot fish frozen to the sidewalk.
As of this writing, the cause of the aquarium’s destruction is unknown. Some have speculated the -10 C temperatures experienced in Berlin early Friday may have caused the tank to crack.
The company that owns the AquaDom, Union Investment Real Estate, said in a statement that it is “still unclear” what triggered the tank’s eruption.
Police said there is no evidence the tank was tampered with.
“Despite all the destruction, we were still very lucky,” said Mayor Giffey. She said there would have been greater harm and “terrible human damage” had the aquarium burst even an hour later when more people were active in the hotel and the surrounding area.
She described the incident as a “veritable tsunami.”
Currently, officials are working to remove the fish from other smaller, surrounding aquariums in the Sea Life Center because the AquaDom’s burst cut power to the building. Without electricity, the tanks cannot be powered, and the fish will not receive enough oxygen to survive.
Local organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, have agreed to temporarily house the recently displaced fish.
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.
— With files from The Associated Press