Veterinarians and first responders scrambled to save as many tropical fish as they could after a massive aquarium burst in Berlin, sending a deluge of water into the street.
Despite their best efforts, nearly all of the 1,500 fish living inside the AquaDom tourist attraction died after the catastrophe — though hundreds of others inside separate aquariums were saved by the responders.
“It’s a great tragedy that for 1,500 fish there was no chance of survival,” said Almut Neumann, a city official in charge of environmental issues for Berlin’s Mitte district. “The focus in the afternoon was clearly on saving the fish in the remaining tanks.”
Roughly 264,000 gallons of water gushed out of the AquaDom around 5:45 a.m. Friday, causing major damage to the building, which includes the Radisson Blu hotel, cafes and a chocolate shop. Two people received minor injuries in the deluge, fire officials said.
Some of the fish struggling “at the bottom of the tank,” still had a chance for survival, the Berlin Mitte district government confirmed via Twitter. The tank housed 80 types of fish, including a blue tang and clownfish — colorful tropical fish made famous by Disney’s “Finding Nemo.”
As crews began cleaning up debris, officials teamed with veterinarians to rescue 400 to 500 smaller fish from separate aquariums beneath the hotel lobby, who were not receiving enough oxygen with the building’s electricity cut.
The fish were moved to other tanks at the nearby Sea Life aquarium.
Various organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, have offered to take in the surviving fish.
Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey called the torrent a “veritable tsunami” but was thankful that injuries were minimized given the early morning hour it occurred.
“Despite all the destruction, we were still very lucky,” she said. “We would have had terrible human damage” had the aquarium burst even an hour later, once more people were awake and in the hotel and the surrounding area, she said.
Sandra Weeser, a German MP from the liberal Free Democrats party, told Politico she was staying at the Raddison Blu hotel when she was suddenly awoken by a “big bang” that she first believed to be an earthquake.
She learned what had actually happened on social media before she and around 300 other hotel guests were evacuated through the destruction on the ground floor that she likened to a “war zone.”
“There was wreckage everywhere — and the poor tropical fish frozen in between,” she told Politico, calling the scene a “sad picture” as she was led through ankle-deep water.
“One of the big fish — a parrotfish — was lying frozen on the floor on my way out,” she told Berliner Morgenpost in an earlier interview.
The AquaDom’s website described it as the biggest cylindrical tank in the world at 82 feet tall, however Union Investment Real Estate clarified Friday that the tank portion of the attraction had a height of 46 feet.
The aquarium is a major tourist magnet in Berlin. A leisurely, 10-minute elevator ride through the tropical tank was one of the highlights of the attraction.
The tank, which held the Guinness World Record for largest cylindrical aquarium, reportedly cost $14 million to built when it debuted at the Radisson Blu in 2003. It was last modernized in 2020.
It remains unclear what caused the aquarium to burst, however officials said they do not believe it was the result of a malicious act.
Some speculated that freezing temperatures could have caused the acrylic glass tank to crank, as temperatures dipped to 14 degrees in Berlin overnight.
Aquarium operator Sea Life said it was working with AquaDom operators to learn what happened. It called Friday’s incident “unique and unprecedented” and that Sea Life’s exhibits were not in danger of similar damage.
Sea Life Berlin is located in the same building and visitors can tour it and the AquaDom on a single ticket.
A Lindt chocolate store and several restaurants in the same building complex, as well as an underground parking garage next to the hotel, sustained damage, according to police.
Fire officials said building safety experts are investigating whether the building sustained any structural damage.
Hours after the incident, cleaning trucks arrived at the hotel to clear the shattered glass and other debris that the water had rushed out into the street. Lindt candy wrappers littered the ground outside of the chocolate shop.
With Post Wires