A firefighter walks through debris in front of a hotel where an huge aquarium has burst in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. German police say a huge fish tank in the center of Berlin has burst, causing a wave of devastation in and around the Sea Life tourist attraction. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — A Grand Junction-based company that helped build a huge aquarium in Berlin says it is sending a team to investigate the rupture of the tank, which sent a wave of debris, water and tropical fish crashing through the hotel lobby it was located in and onto the street outside.

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. 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.”

Officials said Friday evening that the hotel building itself was assessed to be safe. Police said parts of the building, which also contains cafes and a chocolate store, were damaged as 264,000 gallons of water poured from the aquarium. 

Mayor Franziska Giffey said the tank had unleashed a “veritable tsunami” of water but the early morning timing had prevented far more injuries.

“Despite all the destruction, we were still very lucky,” she said. “We would have had terrible human damage” had the aquarium burst even an hour later, once more people were awake and in the hotel and the surrounding area, she said.

The local government said that nearly all of the 1,500 fish that were inside at the time of the rupture died but “a few fish at the bottom of the tank” were saved.

The AquaDom aquarium opened in December 2003 and was modernized in 2020. The website of the AquaDom described it as the biggest cylindrical tank in the world at 82 feet tall, although Union Investment Real Estate clarified Friday that the tank portion of the attraction had a height of 46 feet.

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.”

Veterinarians, fire service officers and other officials spent the afternoon working to rescue 400 to 500 smaller fish from a separate set of aquariums housed under the hotel lobby. Without electricity, their tanks were not receiving the necessary oxygen for them to survive, officials said. They were evacuated to other tanks in the neighboring Sea Life aquarium that were unaffected.

“It’s a great tragedy that for 1,500 fish there was no chance of survival,” said Almut Neumann, a city official in charge of environmental issues for Berlin’s Mitte district. “The focus in the afternoon was clearly on saving the fish in the remaining tanks.”

Various organizations, including the Berlin Zoo, offered to take in the surviving fish.

Hours after the incident, trucks began clearing away the debris that had spilled out onto the street in front of the hotel. Brightly colored Lindt chocolate wrappers were scattered in front of the building where the chocolate shop was damaged. A small crowd of tourists and onlookers snapped photos from behind the police line across the street.

Animal rights group PETA tweeted Friday that the aquarium became a “death trap” for the fish housed in it. “This man-made tragedy shows that aquariums are not a safe place for fish and other marine life,” the group wrote.

The aquarium is a major tourist magnet in Berlin. The 10-minute elevator ride through the tropical tank was one of the highlights of the attraction.

The Associated Press

Email: newsroom@coloradosun.com