An investigation into what caused a fire at a five-story Prague hotel Eurostars David on Saturday is continuing. Four people died - two on site and two later in hospital. What remains unknown is what caused the blaze and there are questions whether the alarm system worked properly.
The fire at Eurostars David, located on the Prague embankment a block away from the National Theatre, was reported just after six pm on Saturday and first responders were at the scene within minutes. By then, however, parts of the building were already ablaze. Eventually, 17 fire fighter units as well as a special chemicals squad, six volunteer units and a unit from Prague Castle would combine efforts to get the fire under control.
The spokesman for Prague’s fire brigade, Martin Kavka, described the situation as it developed.
“When they arrived, firefighters were struck by the intensity of the fire. The first responders were there within three minutes but it was blazing in part of the building. They had to begin battling the fire, which was spreading, and to get people out of harm’s way.”
Images from the scene showed guests at the hotel sitting on window ledges on the top floor, waiting to be rescued. Afterwards, numerous clients at the hotel who escaped from inside and had witnessed was happening, reported they had never heard a fire alarm. Milan Markovic, a visitor from Montenegro, told Czech Radio that he and his wife only realised they were in any danger when they heard sirens of arriving vehicles outside.
Around 40 people were evacuated from the building in the space of around ten minutes. Dozens were given medical attention on site. Around nine people suffered injury, including two firefighters.
Worse, a 22-year-old German man and a 21-year-old South Korean woman lost their lives and two other foreign nationals, both women, died later in hospital.
On Sunday, clients who had been accommodated elsewhere for the night by the hotel were not allowed to return for their belongings as investigators assessed the damage, working with several possible scenarios as to the cause of the tragedy. Early reports suggested that the problem may have been a circuit in the air conditioning system but nothing has officially been confirmed.
Václav Vlk, a lawyer for the hotel which is owned by a Spanish hotel chain, rejected the notion that negligence had in any way played a role:
“This is a hotel belonging to a large hotel chain, so it is standard that everything should be in order...”
That said, the police are said to be investigating the tragedy as possible criminal negligence threating the public.