Netherlands Celebration Becomes "Night of Terror" : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

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Netherlands celebration becomes 'night of terror'

By ANTHONY DEUTSCH, Associated Press

VOLENDAM, Netherlands (January 1, 2001 11:01 a.m. EST - A fire ripped through a packed New Year's celebration in a three-story party hall, killing at least five revelers and injuring more than 130, officials and eyewitnesses said.

The fire started shortly after midnight as around 700 people were heralding the new year in the complex in Volendam, a picturesque fishing village about 13 miles northeast of Amsterdam on the inland IJsselmeer sea.

"It was a night of terror," Volendam Mayor Frank IJsselmuiden told Dutch television. "I saw disoriented youngsters with fear in their eyes. I watched as one of those youngsters died" while rescue workers tried to resuscitate him.

Teen-aged partygoers jumped from the windows to flee billowing clouds of smoke that instantly engulfed the dance hall on the top floor, called Little Heaven, reports said.

A Dutch TV correspondent said unconscious victims were pulled out of windows by their hair. Doctors at trauma centers where scores of people were being treated for severe burns and smoke inhalation said the death toll could rise as high as 20.

A hospital director in Amsterdam said the victims were almost all 17 to 30 years old. He was quoted in radio reports as saying that 53 people had been admitted, about half of them in critical condition with burn and inhalation injuries.

"It was like warfare, people screaming and trampling over each other to get out," said Henk Jong, who ran out of a bar around the corner to help a woman with bloodied hands who was looking for her children.

Mayor IJsselmuiden said police were investigating reports that the fire originated in a set of Christmas decorations and that all but one of the emergency exits had been blocked.

The building, located in a row of old wooden buildings on the harbor, had a dance hall with a bar and cafe on each floor and was often used for weddings and large festivities.

Four of the dead perished in the fire while one died later in a hospital, municipal spokeswoman Mary Verhoog said.

Eyewitnesses reported hearing explosions and seeing partygoers take live fireworks inside the cafe, which was decked with holiday lights and pine branches.

"I was partying together with my mates, and all of a sudden, boom! In one second, everything vanished. You couldn't see a thing," one reveler told Radio 1.

"There was an explosion and there was smoke, lots of smoke," another unnamed eyewitness said in a television interview. "In one instant, everything was gone, and everyone was panicking."

Dutch television showed amateur video images of firefighters trying to resuscitate victims on the rooftops of nearby buildings while ambulances from across the country ferried dozens to emergency rooms across the eastern Netherlands.

Firefighting crews were called in from around the region in response to a 12:30 a.m. alarm. The blaze was quickly brought under control and the complex was being boarded up and sealed off for investigators several hours later.

The mayor said all cafes in the town had recently been inspected for fire code violations.

"I can't say at this point there was any reason to suspect this cafe was unsafe," he said.

A May 13 fireworks storehouse blast in the eastern city of Enschede killed 20 people, injured 1,000 and wiped out an entire neighborhood.

-- Rachel Gibson (, January 01, 2001



Monday January 1 4:15 PM ET At Least Eight Killed in Dutch Cafe Fire

By Matt Daily

VOLENDAM, Netherlands (Reuters) - At least eight people were killed and more than 180 injured when fire swept through a cafe packed with teenagers celebrating New Year in the Dutch tourist town of Volendam, officials said on Monday.

Police said the toll was expected to rise as those burned in the inferno in the harborside Het Hemeltje cafe -- whose name means Small Heaven -- died of their injuries.

Mayor Frank Ijsselmuiden told a news conference the official death toll was eight, saying he had been mistaken in earlier telling Dutch television it had risen by one to nine.

Seven men and a woman, all local residents aged between 17 and 22, perished in the fire, which swept through the third story of the timbered building in this picturesque town 10 miles north of Amsterdam, officials said.

Some 184 people had been registered injured by police and emergency workers, and 90 were still in hospital, the mayor told reporters. Asked how high the death toll might rise, he said: ``I dare not guess.''

Fifteen of the injured were said to be clinging to life and some were sent to specialist burns units in Belgium and Germany.

Temperatures ``Up To 1,000 Degrees''

It was unclear what caused the fire, which broke out at 12:30 a.m. on Monday as hundreds of people partied. Many were injured as they smashed windows and leaped from the top floor into the dark to escape the flames.

An initial investigation indicated that Christmas decorations attached to the ceiling probably caught fire and dropped onto the teenagers, Ijsselmuiden said.

Volendam police chief Jan Schouten said temperatures on the cafe's ceiling reached 800 to 1,000 degrees Celsius. The decorations stuck to the ceiling were mostly Christmas tree branches, he told the news conference.

``It was a very intense but short fire,'' Cor Kwakman, a town spokesman, told Reuters. ``There was a lot of panic...The smoke was very thick. We heard people were walking over each other.''

Many of those who suffered burns were wearing clothes made of highly flammable synthetic fabrics.

A doctor at a specialist burn center in Beverwijk, west of Volendam, said he expected the death toll to rise as many people suffered severe burns and lung damage due to smoke inhalation.

``The combination of serious burn wounds and damage to the almost always lethal. Ten to 15 people are injured very badly (in that way),'' he told Dutch television.

Ijsselmuiden said he could not confirm or deny reports that a number of fire exits in the cafe were blocked. He could not comment on media speculation that one teenager as young as 13 died, saying a list of the dead was expected to be released on Tuesday.

-- Rachel Gibson (, January 01, 2001.

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