Fire Aftermath Berlin Philharmonic Escapes Severe Damage

Fire officials on Wednesday say the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic has escaped severe damage after a fire broke out on Tuesday. They will now start investigating the cause of the blaze -- the culprit could turn out to be welding work carried out on the building's distinctive tin roof.


A fire official inside Berlin's Philharmonic the day after the landmark building caught fire.
AP

A fire official inside Berlin's Philharmonic the day after the landmark building caught fire.

The fire at the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic that broke out on Tuesday has finally been extinguished. Firefighters kept watch on the building over night and quickly put out two small blazes that flared up. They are keeping watch on the building on Wednesday and have used a thermal camera to search for any remaining embers.

The damage to the building seems to be far less extensive than was originally feared, and the huge concert hall -- which seats 2,400 and is famed for its acoustics -- escaped damage. "There was very little water damage," Berlin's culture minister, Andre Schmitz, told the city's Info Radio on Wednesday.

The fire, which broke out on Tuesday just before 2 p.m. and which saw musicians rush in to save their instruments, occurred as around 400 people were leaving a lunchtime concert in the foyer. Over 700 people had been due to rehearse a series of concerts planned for this weekend to be conducted by Claudio Abbado, the former director of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra. "Thank God the fire broke out earlier," Pamela Rosenberg, the orchestra's general manager told the Associated Press.

Many of the musicians who had arrived for the rehearsals were allowed to enter the building to save their instruments. Peter Riegelbauer, a senior orchestra member, told reporters that around 50 "priceless" instruments were removed while the bigger pieces, such as the concert pianos, were not damaged because they are housed below the concert hall and were far from the blaze.

Fire officers on Wednesday will now try to assess the full extent of the damage and investigate what caused the blaze. Police spokeswoman Heike Nagora told reporters that welding work had been carried out on the tin roof earlier in the day.

Although the first fire engines arrived at the scene just six minutes after the alarm was sounded, fighting the fire proved difficult. The firefighters had to cut a hole in the metal, tent-shaped roof some 160 feet (50 meters) above ground to get to the fire. They then tried to use more foam than water to try to limit the damage to the world-famous building, which was designed by architect Hans Scharoun and held its first concert in 1963. The Philharmonic was once home to legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan and is now led by Simon Rattle.

Culture Minister Schmitz told Info Radio that a decision would be made on Wednesday about where the concerts scheduled for the coming days would now take place. He said alternative venues include the Admiralpalast and the Konzerthaus Berlin in the nearby Gendarmenmarkt square.

Berlin's Tagesspiegel reported Wednesday that the orchestra won't be homeless for too long. According to the newspaper, a number of performances of Berlioz' "La Mort de Cleopatre," to be directed by Simon Rattle, might still take place at the Philharmonic at the end of next week.

smd/ap/dpa

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