ROTTERDAM - Eleven people were killed in a house fire in the Bloemhof district of Rotterdam last night. Eight children are among the victims. It is the fire with the most victims in Rotterdam, since World War II.

The house, on the second and third floors in the Oleanderstraat burned out completely in a short time.

The victims are all part of one family, with Surinamese background. The youngest victim was four years old. Five people were rescued from the property. They too are related to the victims.


The fire started on the ground floor or first floor at around 2 a.m.. A neighbor across the street saw that a fire had started and ran outside.

“I was reading on the bed, because I just couldn't get to sleep. Suddenly I saw a blaze of fire and heard crackling. I immediately went outside. ”

(neighbor Dirk Boom, Telegraph, 03-01-1980)

Boom threw in some windows on the first floor to add the residents. Later he also kicked in a door. Four people in that apartment could leave the building in time. A sixteen year old niece of the family managed to escape the building by the sea of ​​fire on their own.

A second attempt to wake the sleeping residents failed, because the roof tiles on the top floor due to ice formation mirror smooth. “Because of the sleet on the roof tiles and the blazing flames unfortunately we had to accommodate our attempts ”, Boom said in De Telegraaf.

The fire brigade was on the spot a few minutes after the report. Then there was already a blazing fire. The victims were then able to building has not been abandoned yet.

According to the fire brigade, the fire is on the back of it building. In no time the fire had spread to the second and the third floor. According to the fire brigade, the fire spread so quickly that the people on the two top floors could not be saved.

“Sad as it sounds. I don't think the people on the second floor and the attic could have been saved by us or others. The fire caught on very quickly, because of the wooden floors and stairs in the building ”

(fire chief Klouwens, Telegraph, 03-01-1980)

According to the commander, the fire on Oleanderstraat is "the worst that Rotterdam has had in recent years.".

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The last victim fell on the ground floor, a 53 year old man. He has started a fire more often, residents say. Earlier there was fumbled with a heater by the resident. That stove was fired with logs. Several windows of his house had already been destroyed and the door was broken barricaded.

Local residents had already asked several times to do to the loner. No action has ever been taken against the man.

“The man on the ground floor was ticked. They should have removed it much earlier. ”,

(local residents, Het Vrije Volk, 03-01-1980)

“Other local residents and I have alarmed the police and the municipality of Rotterdam many times about the situation in the ground floor, where the only Dutch victim lived ”

(local resident, Telegraph, 03-01-1980)

The neighborhood agrees that if there was after the previous fire had occurred, the eleven deaths could have been prevented.


Hours later, the drama that had unfolded was mainly grief and dismay in the street. In addition, there is also anger.

“And not just about the utter powerlessness to rescue people from the torch-burning old building. But in the severely dilapidated state, whose houses are more than fifty years old and the majority - as is increasingly the case in large cities - are populated by foreign guest workers with their families and ex-empires with their entire families - the accusing finger is directed at the police and the municipality of Rotterdam ”

(Telegraph, 03-01-1980)

Local residents say they attend a fire like this "like rats in a trap", by the state of the home. And should a fire break out again in these houses, where many people like each other get caught, then chances are that there will be a large number of victims again will be regrettable, zeggen ze.

Hoe ging het verder?

On Friday 11 March on the Southern Cemetery under great interest of the Surinamese community of the ten victims to bury. Hundreds of family members and friends are present.

The fire had indeed started on the ground floor. A few days later, Jan T. arrested. The unemployed furniture maker confesses that he had thrown a burning cigarette in the house on the ground floor through one of the broken windows "in a drunken mood".

T. then admitted that he had a mattress, the one in front of the broken window was sitting, pushed aside and then tossed a cigarette. According to the fire brigade the fire had also started in that place. Witnesses had seen that T. something to it had done the house and declared it to the police. On the basis of a report was arrested the 57-year-old man.

Jan T. had walked away after taking the butt thrown. Later he came back to watch the fire.

The question that arose after that was whether one burning cigarette would be one of those could cause a major fire. Nee, said the suspect, but experts thought there different about.

The man is sentenced to five years in prison for causing the fire, resulting in the deaths of eleven people. On appeal, Jan T. acquitted. According to the court, it was not proven that Jan T. has intentionally started a fire.


The fire in Oleanderstraat was a wake-up call for this some settings. The fire brigade started, following this fire, a information campaign about fire prevention in old neighborhoods. The first information evening was in the Bloemhof district, where also the house on the Oleanderstraat stood.

The demanded improvement of the homes was also made. Some of the houses were renovated. Oleanderstraat 14, the location of the fire, did not return.


De Volkskrant – 03-01-1980 – Eleven people die in a fire

The Telegraph – 03-01-1980 – "In these hovels you are trapped like a rat’

Het Vrije Volk – 03-01-1980 – Defeat and anger after worst fire in years

Het Vrije Volk – 05-01-1980 – Butt through open window, disaster fire founded out of lust

The Telegraph – 07-01-1980 – Witness confesses to arson

Het Vrije Volk – 02-04-1980 – Jan T. : "I didn't have a quarter to call the fire department’

Het Vrije Volk – 01-08-1980 – Five years before fatal fire Oleanderstraat

Het Vrije Volk – 23-10-1980 – Arsonist Oleanderstraat at large

Author: Dave Datema

published: 01-01-2020

story number: 146

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