THE HAGUE - Eleven people were killed in a fierce fire at Pension De Vogel on Scheepmakersstraat in The Hague last night. The victims were suffocated or burned. Fire safety in the building was far below par, say stakeholders.

The fire started a little before five o'clock this morning on the second floor. In a short time flames exploded from the building. Some of those present were surprised by the speed with which the fire spread, that they could only flee to the roof. Several people jumped down there, some half burning.

The fire brigade and the police have brought down as many people as possible with the ladder. Initially, the fire brigade assumed eight killed victims. Later that number was adjusted to eleven.

The identification of the victims becomes a very difficult task, because some of them are left with only charred remains.

Brand Pension De Vogel. Maker: unknown

Chaos

Local residents describe the chaos in and around the guest house on Scheepmakerstraat. One of the people in the street tells how people sat in the window frames and screamed for help.

“The fire brigade and police, who were working on two ladders, cried: stand still, stop… But at least six, seven people jumped anyway, some half on fire. Three fell dead at my feet. You think: I have to do something, but you are powerless. This is the worst thing I've ever seen ”

(eyewitness, Trouw, 17-09-1992)

Others were luckier. For example, Peter could retell how he was woken up by someone shouting "fire".

“When I opened the door, the flames hit my face. I had nowhere to go. When I looked outside I saw the fire brigade. I smashed the window with my bare hands and jumped out. The fire brigade broke my fall with a blanket ”

(Peter, 17-02-1992, Algemeen Dagblad)

Unsafe

Pension De Vogel was founded by Ans de Vogel, better known as "Ma Vogel". She has been busy arranging shelter for people who are left out elsewhere for almost thirty years, such as ex-psychiatric patients, vagrants, prostitutes.

After previous guesthouses on the Poeldijkstraat and the Weteringkade were closed, she opened De Vogel in Scheepmakersstraat five years ago.

That the building was not in order from a fire point of view, had been clear for years. The property did not have a fire escape, no smoke detectors and no partitions. The fire brigade already approved the building three years ago. Still, the property was, just like the two hundred similar guesthouses in The Hague, tolerated.

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"People on the street’

Alderman Dijkhuizen of The Hague admitted that the municipality was aware of the poor fire-technical condition of the building. "If we comply with all the rules, a lot of people will immediately be on the street", was the explanation of the alderman to the Algemeen Dagblad.

"But this drama did make me think", Dijkhuizen continued in De Telegraaf. "There will be a bill to monitor compliance with the regulations more strictly."

The Hague is not the only city with many such unsafe guesthouses. There would also be hundreds of such fire-unsafe overnight places in cities like Rotterdam.


Hoe ging het verder?

One of the guesthouse visitors later admitted that she lit the fire. It was Marlene T.: 37 jaar oud, prostitute and mother of three children.

After an argument, she had threatened to set the entire building on fire. Later in the evening she bought a canister of gasoline. Net na 04:00 hours she lit the fire in her room.

There was no regrets. During the trial, the woman screamed that "she had hoped that many more people would die". The woman was declared completely insane and received forced-nursing TBS.

Justice had another prison sentence 12 year, but it was not imposed, also not on appeal.

Many cities used the fire in Pension De Vogel as a reason to check more strictly for unsafe situations in guesthouses. In The Hague, dozens of guesthouses are already closed in the months after the fire. An inventory is being made of the number of unsafe buildings in Rotterdam: there are thousands of them.

And Ans de Vogel? In December she will start a new guesthouse for the needy, on the Laan van Meerdervoort. But this time safe.

Sources:

The Telegraph – 17-02-1992 – Sea of ​​Fire in The Hague guesthouse

Trouw – 17-02-1992 – Fire boarding house claims eleven dead

Algemeen Dagblad – 17-02-1992 – Alderman rejects criticism after boarding fire

https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand_in_Pension_de_Vogel

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