At least 14 people were killed after a fire broke out at a workshop employing disabled people in southwestern Germany. The blaze broke out at 2 p.m. local time and raged for two hours before fire fighters were able to extinguish it.
The exact cause of the fire is unknown. Investigators say it started in the storeroom of the workshop, where people with disabilities work with metal and wood and assemble electrical products. An explosion was heard coming from a room where chemicals are believed to have been stored, police said.
Some 120 people are employed at the workshop. Most were able to save themselves but some were completely helpless and had to be rescued by firemen who rushed into the building and gave them breathing apparatus.
The rescue was difficult because some people panicked, said local fire chief Alexander Widmaier. "We are dealing here with people who naturally do not respond rationally," he said. Fewer than 10 people were injured.
The governor of the state of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, and state Interior Minister Reinhold Gall were reported to be on their way to the scene.
The town's mayor, Armin Hinterseh, said: "This is appalling. We now have to figure out how this happened."
The workshop, run by the Catholic Church's Caritas' organization, was set up about 30 years ago. The building was renovated in 2002.
rr -- with wire reports
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