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Baby tossed to safety survives, but nine die in German fire

Associated Press
Published February 6, 2008


LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany - Trapped by smoke, the parents of a 9-month-old baby girl faced an excruciating dilemma: If they threw her out of the window, would she be caught four stories below?

The split-second decision paid off: The baby fell safely into the arms of a police officer below. The parents also survived, although the mother was still in a hospital Tuesday, two days after the blaze that killed nine people, including five children.

The drama at a building in southwestern Germany was captured in a series of photographs of the baby in free fall as a group of anguished adults, thick smoke billowing around them, watched.

The building was home to Turkish immigrants, and Turkey's prime minister expressed concern Tuesday about possible arson. A young girl told Germany's RTL television that she saw a man setting fire to something in the building.

"We want the incident to be enlightened as soon as possible," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding he hoped "there was nothing based on hostility toward foreigners." He said a government official and four Turkish police officers would visit the scene.

With the staircase destroyed by flames, adults jumped for their lives while others formed human ladders to help save people trapped inside, police and rescue workers said. Children from lower floors were handed to rescue workers atop an ambulance.

Some who jumped missed rescue nets laid out by police.

"The scenes were so terrible that some of the forces deployed wanted to give up their jobs afterward," police Chief Wolfgang Fromm said.

[Last modified February 6, 2008, 01:36:28]

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