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Brussels commemorates 50 years since deadly department store fire
A ceremony has been held at the Evere cemetery in Brussels to commemorate victims of the tragic fire that took the lives of 251 people exactly 50 years ago. The fire broke out on 22 May, 1967, in the department store À l'Innovation, today known as Galeria Inno. At the time, it was the largest store in Belgium.
Around 13.30 on that fateful day, a salesperson in the children's department noticed a burning smell while flames engulfed a storage room. Firefighters were immediately alerted, but large billows of smoke kept them back, and the fire spread rapidly. The glass dome of the art-nouveau building shattered, letting in more oxygen to fuel the fire.
Overcome by panic, some people jumped from several storeys high, even before the emergency services could arrive. By 14.00, the store was completely up in flames, and the fire raged until late in the evening. 251 people were killed in the disaster. Only 38 bodies could be identified.
The tragedy resulted in improved building and security regulations for shopping centres and supermarkets in Belgium, including the installation of water sprinklers and better evacuation procedures.