Three women investigated for causing deadly blaze at German zoo

A picture taken on January 2, 2020 shows flowers and candles left at a makeshift memorial site in front of the burned-out monkey house at Krefeld zoo, western Germany, after a fire on New Year's Eve, killed dozens of animals, including orangutans, chimpanzees and marmosets. (AFP)
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Updated 02 January 2020

Three women investigated for causing deadly blaze at German zoo

  • The women are being investigated on suspicion of negligent arson
  • The fire started in a corner of the ape house’s roof in the first minutes of the new year and spread rapidly

BERLIN: Three women are under investigation in Germany for launching paper sky lanterns for the new year which apparently ignited a devastating fire that killed more than 30 animals at a zoo, officials said Thursday.
The three local women — a mother and her two daughters, ages 30 to 60 — went to police in the western city of Krefeld on New Year’s Day after authorities held a news conference about the blaze, criminal police chief Gerd Hoppmann said.
The women are being investigated on suspicion of negligent arson, prosecutor Jens Frobel said. The offense can carry a prison sentence of up to five years.
Many Germans welcome in the new year legally with fireworks at midnight. Sky lanterns, however, are both illegal and unusual in Germany. The mini hot-air balloons made of paper have been used in Asia for centuries.
The fire started in a corner of the ape house’s roof in the first minutes of the new year and spread rapidly. The zoo near the Dutch border says the ape house burned down and more than 30 animals — including five orangutans, two gorillas, a chimpanzee and several monkeys — were killed, as well as fruit bats and birds. The animals either burned to death or died from smoke inhalation, authorities said.
Hoppmann said the women had ordered five sky lanterns on the Internet and told authorities that they had believed they were legal in Germany. He added that there was nothing in the product description showing that they were banned.
Hoppmann described the women as “completely normal people who seemed very sensible, very responsible” and said it was “very courageous” of them to come forward, saving authorities a tricky investigation. He added that they feared reprisals and authorities limited the details given about the suspects.
Investigators believe that just one lantern started the blaze. They found the other four later, with handwritten good wishes for the new year attached.
The destroyed ape house lacked fire detectors and sprinklers, which weren’t required when it was built in the 1970s. The zoo said, however, that it had passed a regular fire protection check a few months ago.
The building’s roof had been renovated after a hailstorm a few years ago and plexiglass was added, Hoppmann said. He said while investigators were confident the sky lantern was to blame, they will look at other factors that may have contributed to the blaze, such as dry fallen leaves on the roof.
Investigators plan to carry out tests to help find out why the blaze spread so quickly. Firefighters were only able to rescue two chimpanzees. The zoo said Thursday it was satisfied with their condition.


AI helped predict virus health care needs, says SEHA CFO

In this Feb. 5, 2010, file photo, a laboratory technician prepares samples of urine for doping tests during a media open day, at the King's College Drug Control Centre in London. (AP)
Updated 30 May 2020

AI helped predict virus health care needs, says SEHA CFO

  • Kapitelli praised the UAE and its residents and citizens for taking a proactive role in curbing the spread of the virus

LONDON: Artificial intelligence (AI) and data have allowed health systems and governments to predict and ascertain coronavirus patient demand curves, as well as find out where and what type of capacity is needed, the group chief financial officer at the Abu Dhabi Health Services Co. (SEHA) said during a webinar on Friday.
That enabled hospitals in Abu Dhabi to be equipped with ventilators to treat critically ill patients and “to effectively double our ICU (intensive care unit) bed capacity … in a relatively short period of time,” George Kapitelli said.
The webinar was titled “Artificial intelligence in the time of COVID-19.” It was hosted by the Emirates Society in the UK, and was moderated by its Chairman Alistair Burt.
Other speakers included Orlando Agrippa, CEO of Draper & Dash Predictive Healthcare Analytics, and Northumbria Healthcare CEO Sir James Mackey.
Agrippa said: “What we want to do as a health system in Abu Dhabi is not to tackle this virus from a sort of guessing perspective. We want to leverage data, analytics and advanced technology to be able to get in front of it and really manage it at a cellular level.”
He added: “We started looking at what South Korea was doing, what Singapore was doing, what the guys in Germany are doing, or Sweden, that made their situation different from others. We spent an enormous amount of time looking at that.
“We looked at splitting the population into categories. The Middle East has a very different population configuration than the UK, for example.
“We had to do all those things to try to get some sense of when it (COVID-19) will peak, and what will be the true demand and true capacity requirement.”
Kapitelli praised the UAE and its residents and citizens for taking a proactive role in curbing the spread of the virus.
“What I see in the UAE, compared to my home country Australia, is a much better application of basic principles of social distancing and wearing masks and gloves,” he said. “People just accept that here (in the UAE), and I think that obviously plays a positive role.”
Sir James said the use of AI and data gathering is essential in order to be prepared for the next phase of coronavirus.
“One of our problems throughout this whole episode has been access to data beyond our own boundaries,” he added.
“In terms of trying to understand what was coming, our main source of information was ringing friends in London and finding out what was happening there — London was always about two weeks ahead of us (Northumbria). That’s a big gap that we’ve got to close down ahead of this next phase.”