At least five people died and about 130 were injured as fire swept through a cafe packed with teenagers welcoming in the new year in the Dutch town of Volendam, police said today.
Many of the injured were hurt as they smashed windows and leapt in the dark from the third floor premises of the Het Hemeltje (“Small Heaven”) cafe to escape the flames.
“Up till now there are five dead, one of whom died in hospital. We estimate there are 130 injured,” Volendam Mayor Frank Ijsselmuiden told radio station Radio 1.
“We needed about 100 ambulances.”
A spokesman for Amsterdam AMC hospital told NOS Journaal television that 53 injured had been admitted there, half of whom were in a serious condition with burns while the others were only slightly injured.
He said those admitted were aged 17 to 30.
Teens Celebrating the New Year
Volendam police spokesman Wietse Peter told Reuters: “There were mainly teenagers in the building who were celebrating New Year’s Eve …
“In panic several people jumped out of windows,” to escape the flames, he said.
Peter added that some of the burn victims were being cared for by local people. “There they lie in bathtubs,” he told Radio 1.
Around 10 fire engines and scores of ambulances, sirens screaming, raced to the scene in the picturesque fishing town of Volendam, about 10 miles north of Amsterdam.
The fire started at 12:30 a.m. today and the last of the injured was taken to hospital around an hour later.
“It didn’t take long to put out the fire. Taking care of the injured took a long time,” said the mayor, adding: “Probably blind panic is the reason so many people have been injured. It [the cafe] was crowded.”
In television footage from the scene, one injured man could be heard moaning “panic, panic, everywhere panic” as his stretcher was loaded into an ambulance.
Decorations May Have Caught Fire
It was not clear what caused the blaze, which has now been put out.
Peter said: “It was possibly caused by Christmas decorations catching fire.”
The cafe, popular with young people. is the largest in town.
The Dutch news agency ANP reported anxious parents trying to find if their children were among the casualties.
Volendam is a popular tourist resort lying on the Ijselmeer, an inland lake which links with the North Sea.
ANP said the authorities had asked for medical help from neighboring towns.
Some of the injured were taken to Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit hospital.
Spokesman Harry Te Walvaart said early today: “Several injured have been brought in. I’m not sure about the number.”