World's Largest Free-Standing Aquarium Bursts, Dumps 1,500 Fish and 264,000 Gallons of Water

The AquaDom aquarium in Berlin, housed in a hotel lobby, burst on Friday morning. Most of its fish died, and the cause of the incident is unknown.

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A diver can be seen in the cylindrical AquaDom aquarium.
The AquaDom Aquarium in Berlin, Germany.
Photo: Sean Gallup (Getty Images)

The AquaDom, the world’s largest cylindrical aquarium, burst on Friday morning in Berlin, releasing more than 264,000 gallons of water (a million liters) onto the premises, which also house a hotel, museum, and cafes. On Twitter, the Berlin police said that there had been “unbelievable maritime damage.”

Videos and photos posted to social media by hotel guests on Friday show absolutely jaw-dropping damage, with dead fish, bent support beams, and broken glass clearly visible in the wreckage of the 52-foot glass tower. German authorities and rescue personnel said that there had been no human casualties, although two people had been injured by glass shards.

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Berlin fire brigade officials told the BBC that most of the the aquarium’s inhabitants, which included about 1,500 fish from 100 different species in the tank had died.

The cause of the incident is unknown. Local authorities are investigating, according to EuroNews. Sandra Weeser, a guest and member of the German Parliament staying at the Radisson Collection Hotel, told local outlets that she thought there had been a small earthquake this morning, which was in fact the bursting of the AquaDom. The aftermath of the incident reminded her of a war zone, she said.

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“It’s a picture of devastation with lots of dead fish and broken shards,” Weeser told a local TV station, as reported by the New York Times. “The ones that might have been saved were frozen to death.”

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Authorities dispatched 100 emergency responders to the AquaDom, built in 2003 and located inside the Radisson Collection Hotel. Reuters reported that police evacuated the roughly 350 guests staying at the hotel out of concerns that there could be structural damage. On its website, the aquarium announced that the AquaDom was temporarily closed due to the recent destruction.

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According to The New York Times, Berlin officials believe that the fish inside the AquaDom cylindrical tank were unlikely to survive. They were now focusing on saving the fish that remained in other smaller aquariums in the building, which were also at risk because the AquaDom’s bursting had shut off the power.