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Flames engulf Copenhagen's historic old stock exchange building in the Danish capital on April 16. (Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Fire rips through famous Danish landmark

April 16, 2024

By Stephanie Halasz, Antonia Mortensen and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

(CNN) — A huge fire has engulfed Copenhagen’s old stock exchange, one of the Danish capital’s most famous landmarks, causing its spire to collapse as staff and citizens scrambled to rescue paintings and historic artefacts from the blaze.

“I cannot describe how upset I and my colleagues are,” said a visibly moved Brian Mikkelsen, CEO of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, which owns and has offices in the 17th century building. “It is a huge disaster, because it is 400 years of cultural history that is in flames.”

Stunned commuters and onlookers watched as the raging fire could be seen swirling around the building’s distinctive 56-meter spire – shaped as the tail of four entwined dragons – moments before it collapsed and fell into the street below.

Some passersby even joined emergency services to run inside the burning building and help carry large Renaissance paintings and other objects away from the blaze. Among the paintings saved was Danish artist Peder Severin Krøyer’s 1895 work “From the Copenhagen Stock Exchange,” the Chamber of Commerce said.

Denmark’s Deputy Prime Minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, called the fire “our own Notre Dame moment,” referring to the blaze that destroyed the roof and spire of the Paris cathedral, five years ago almost to the day.

The fire began at around 8.30 a.m. local time (2.30 a.m. ET), a Copenhagen fire department chief told CNN, and by 11 a.m. nearly half of the building had been destroyed. The fire was still burning by late afternoon.

The Chamber of Commerce said it is “at a loss for words for how great a tragedy this is.” It said it was “a sad day for our country” and that “the damage will unfortunately be very expensive.”

“We have tried to rescue a lot of historic paintings that were inside the building and the historic furniture,” Jakob Vedsted Andersen, an executive director at the Greater Copenhagen fire and rescue service, told CNN. He said it was “way too soon” to speculate about the causes of the blaze.

Copenhagen police have told people to avoid the area and there have been no reported injuries so far.

People were in the building when the fire started but they were all evacuated, said a police spokesperson who added that military personnel were at the scene to support fire-fighting efforts.

A “piece of Danish history” is on fire, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said, calling the building’s cultural heritage “irreplaceable.”

The Børsen building has been at the heart of Danish business since the 17th century.

The old stock exchange – located only a few minutes walk from Christiansborg Palace – dates back to 1625. It was built in the Dutch Renaissance style at the request of King Christian IV and had recently been undergoing renovations with its facade covered in scaffolding and protective coverings.

Denmark’s culture minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said 400 years of cultural heritage had been damaged.

“How touching it is to see how the employees at Børsen, good people from the emergency services and passers-by work together to rescue art treasures and iconic images from the burning building,” he added in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Emergency services were working to control the fire but it had spread to all floors through the elevator shaft.

Frank Trier Mikkelsen, operations manager at the Greater Copenhagen fire department, said the fire is burning “violently” inside the building, according to TV 2, a government-owned TV channel.

Forty firefighters were inside the building, with valuables being rescued, TV 2 reported.

Mikkelsen told the Danish broadcaster that the fire is of a type that emergency managers dread, explaining parts of the building’s roof need to be removed to extinguish it.

He added machines have been called in to remove some of the copper roof, as the water just bounces off it.

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