Dutch Revelers Die in New Year's Blaze

ByABC News

A M S T E R D A M, Netherlands, Jan. 1, 2000 -- At least five people died andabout 130 were injured as fire swept through a cafe packed withteenagers welcoming in the new year in the Dutch town of Volendam,police said today.

Many of the injured were hurt as they smashed windows andleapt in the dark from the third floor premises of the Het Hemeltje (“SmallHeaven”) cafe to escape the flames.

“Up till now there are five dead, one of whom died inhospital. We estimate there are 130 injured,”Volendam Mayor Frank Ijsselmuiden told radio station Radio1.

“We needed about 100 ambulances.”

A spokesman for Amsterdam AMC hospital told NOS Journaaltelevision that 53 injured had been admitted there, half of whomwere in a serious condition with burns while the others wereonly slightly injured.

He said those admitted were aged 17 to 30.

Teens Celebrating the New Year

Volendam police spokesman Wietse Peter told Reuters: “Therewere mainly teenagers in the building who were celebrating NewYear’s Eve …

“In panic several people jumped out of windows,” to escapethe flames, he said.

Peter added that some of the burn victims were being caredfor by local people. “There they lie in bathtubs,” he told Radio1.

Around 10 fire engines and scores of ambulances, sirensscreaming, raced to the scene in the picturesque fishing town ofVolendam, 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 hourlater.

“It didn’t take long to put out the fire. Taking care of theinjured took a long time,” said the mayor, adding: “Probablyblind panic is the reason so many people have been injured. It[the cafe] was crowded.”

In television footage from the scene, one injured man couldbe heard moaning “panic, panic, everywhere panic” as hisstretcher was loaded into an ambulance.

Decorations May Have Caught Fire

It was not clear what caused the blaze, which has now beenput out.

Peter said: “It was possibly caused by Christmas decorationscatching fire.”

The cafe, popular with young people. is the largest in town.

The Dutch news agency ANP reported anxious parents trying tofind 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 fromneighboring towns.

Some of the injured were taken to Amsterdam’s VrijeUniversiteit hospital.

Spokesman Harry Te Walvaart said early today: “Severalinjured have been brought in. I’m not sure about the number.”

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