Germany: Foreclosed house explodes shortly before auction

Hours before the house was due to be auctioned off, the building exploded and burned to the ground. German authorities did not find the house's sole inhabitant in the rubble — raising suspicions that he is on the run.

An auction for a foreclosed home in the German town of Birkenau did not proceed as planned on Friday, after a blast ripped the house apart.

Nature and Environment | 26.08.2018

Police have now launched a manhunt for the sole inhabitant of the house, a 59-year-old man, who is suspected of causing the blast.

What we know so far:

  • The explosion took place on Friday morning, just hours before the house was due to be auctioned-off.
  • Remnants from several gas cylinders were found in the rubble, which likely caused the explosion.
  • Pieces of the house were blown 20 to 30 meters (more than 65 feet) into the air.
  • No one was injured in the blast, although neighboring houses sustained significant damage to their roofs and windows.

Parts of the house were launched up to 30 meters into the air, damaging neighboring houses

'Heap of rubble'

A spokeswoman for the Birkenau police told news agency dpa that despite fighting the fire for over an hour, the house could not be saved.

"The house is a heap of rubble and is actually no longer recognizable as a building," the spokeswoman said.

Search for suspect: A 59-year-old man who lived alone in the house is under suspicion of setting his house ablaze. Rescue workers combed through the rubble looking for his body — but have not yet found him. Police were asking for information on the man's whereabouts.

Firefighters found parts of several gas cylinders in the rubble

Not the first foreclosure blaze

Friday's explosion is the latest suspected foreclosure arson to occur in the German state of Hesse, where Birkenau is located.

In August, a house that had been sold at auction in the town of Mörlenbach was set on fire just hours before it was due to be handed over to the new owners. Two children were killed in the blaze and their parents went on trial for the arson and murders on Friday.

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