The fire began on the ground floor of the apartment block. It quickly destroyed its wooden staircase, trapping dozens of residents, according to Ludwigshafen fire chief Peter Friedrich. Some panicked residents threw their children from windows and balconies, before jumping to the ground, themselves, to escape the flames. Trapped by smoke, the uncle of a 9-month-old baby threw his nephew out of the window. The baby, called Onur, fell safely into the arms of a policeman below.
The parents also survived, but the mother is recovering in a local hospital, according to Ludwigshafen police chief Wolfgang Fromm. The drama was captured in a series of photographs published in newspapers, here and around the world, of the baby in free fall, as a group of stunned residents looked on.
There are 2.7 million people of Turkish descent in Germany, 900,000 of whom are citizens, according to government statistics. The story of the fire and the deaths was front-page news in much of Turkey, with photos of some of the victims splashed across newspapers.
Erdogan said he hoped the incident would not echo the 1993 killing of five Turkish girls and women in the western German city of Solingen. That fire was set by German youths, and the incident drew worldwide attention, and triggered debate about xenophobia in Germany.
"We hope this incident has nothing to do with xenophobia," Erdogan said.