Monday, 30 April 2012

1967, News: L'Innovation department store Fire

A fire at the L'Innovation department store in Brussels, Belgium, kills 322 people on May 22 1967.

There were approximately 2500 people shopping in the store when fire broke out in the furniture department on the fourth floor. However, almost no one was aware of the fire because no fire alarm went off, nor were there any sprinklers. The fire spread quickly because there were only a few hand-held extinguishers on hand. Fire-fighters had problems to access the store due to the narrow streets.

Panic set in when the shoppers realized what was happening. Many suffered trampling injuries after getting caught in the stampede of people trying to leave the store. Several explosions were set off as the fire hit some butane gas canisters in the camping area of the store. Many people made it to the roof seeking an escape route; at least three died jumping from the building. Most of the 322 fatalities were from smoke inhalation. Evidence pointed to an electrical fire.

The building partly designed by Art Nouveau architect Victor Horta was completely destroyed by the fire.

Poster at the opening of the store in 1903
A l'Innovation shortly after the opening in 1903

Clip from a RTBF documentary (French)

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