BERLIN — A gas explosion from a mobile heater started a fire at a workshop for disabled people in Germany that killed 14 and injured nine others, authorities said Tuesday.
The explosion occurred when gas leaking from the heater in the workshop caught fire, prosecutor Peter Haeberle said at a televised news conference in the southwestern town of Titisee-Neustadt, where the blaze occurred. It was not immediately clear why the gas caught fire.
Haeberle says all evidence points to an accident and there's no indication the fire was started deliberately. However, prosecutors have opened an investigation into the possibility of negligent manslaughter and arson.
The fire broke out Monday at the center, which employs some 120 people with mental or physical disabilities in a variety of jobs including metalwork, woodwork and electrical installation.
A 50-year-old supervisor died along with 13 disabled people — 10 women and three men, aged between 28 and 68 — all of whom were in the room where the explosion occurred, police said. None of the nine people injured was in life-threatening condition Tuesday.
Local officials said the modern building met all fire safety requirements. Eighty-six people at the workshop were able to flee the three-story building unaided after the fire alarm went off, and 11 had to be evacuated by firefighters, said Freiburg regional council head Baerbel Schaefer.
Firefighter chief Alexander Widmaier added that the fire alarm worked properly, but the fire and the smoke spread very fast.
Some 400 rescue workers — firefighters, police and ambulance personnel — were deployed to the scene on Monday.