Investigations begin into Berlin aquarium failure; some fish survived

On December 15, 2022, a giant aquarium in Berlin, called the "Aquadom," and considered the "largest freestanding cylindrical aquarium tank in the world," exploded, releasing 1500 fish into the adjacent hotel. Newsweek explains:

Local media—such as RBB and DW—have confirmed the incident, reporting that police said a blast was heard around 5:45 a.m. local time at the tourist attraction and parts of the Radisson's facade where the aquarium was located flew onto the streets.

Berlin's traffic agency VIZ reported an "extremely large volume of water" spilling over into the street outside the hotel, according to DW. The Associated Press reported that one million liters (about 265,000 gallons) of water poured out of the aquarium.

Two people, a hotel guest and an employee, were wounded by flying glass. And while it was initially thought that there were no aquatic survivors, turns out some of the fish survived. Slate explains:

Firefighters discovered a handful of survivors flopping helplessly in puddles among the debris of the elevator and in the lower support ring of the massive aquarium, which had, when not exploded, measured roughly 55 feet high and 38 feet wide. Survivors were hauled to safety in plastic tubs. Hundreds more fish were rescued from separate tanks elsewhere in the complex and sent to the Berlin zoo, private fish breeders, and a nearby aquarium for safe-keeping.

Still, the aquatic carnage was extensive—and the reaction, from the press and citizens alike, was one of shock, coupled with a dose of lamentation and self-recrimination. "The WATER BOOM" screamed the cover of BZ, the city's leading tabloid, under a photo of mangled remains in the ruined lobby. (Many local newspapers led with photos of a giant dead fish.) The local evening news showed footage of pigeons pecking at chunks on the street.

Cleanup was swift, as Slate explains:

By Monday morning, the immediate cleanup was mostly complete, although the building itself remained an off-limits disaster zone surrounded by construction fencing. Shops in the building, including a Lindt chocolate outlet and a gift shop peddling tchotchkes festooned with Berlin's iconic Ampelmännchen traffic-light figures, remained indefinitely closed. Shuttered, too, was the DDR Museum located beneath the hotel, devoted to depicting daily life in the defunct communist German Democratic Republic.

However, questions remain about what caused the failure. USA Today explains that a company based in the United States is sending experts to Berlin to investigate the rupture and determine what caused it:

Reynolds Polymer Technology, which says it manufactured and installed the cylinder component of the AquaDom tank 20 years ago, said in an emailed statement that "at this point, it is too early to determine the factor or factors that would produce such a failure."

Police have said they found no evidence of a malicious act but the cause of the spectacular collapse shortly before 6 a.m. on Friday, in which two people were slightly injured, remains unclear. Berlin's top security official, Iris Spranger, told German news agency dpa on Friday that "first indications point to material fatigue."

Grand Junction, Colorado-based Reynolds Polymer, which says on its website that 41 of its acrylic panels were used in building the tank cylinder, said it "offers its sincere concern" to the hotel guests and workers who were affected and to those who were injured. It said that "we are also deeply saddened by the animals and aquatic life lost."