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'Notre Dame all over again': Fire breaks out at Copenhagen's historic Stock Exchange

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Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
'Notre Dame all over again': Fire breaks out at Copenhagen's historic Stock Exchange
Copenhagen's old Stock Exchange building was in flames on Tuesday morning. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

A massive fire engulfed the 400-year-old Stock Exchange building, or Børsen, in central Copenhagen on Tuesday morning, causing its iconic central spire to topple over.

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The fire broke out at around 8am on Tuesday morning, with the spire soon completely surrounded by smoke and flames after which it collapsed at around 8.30am.

By 10.30am, the fire had spread to around half of the building and several parts of the roof had fallen in. 

"The fire is very violent, and it is on every floor," Jakob Vedsted Andersen, the fire services' director of emergency management, told Denmark's public broadcaster DR, adding that parts of the building were now too dangerous for firefighters to enter. It is still not known what caused the fire and the blaze is expected to take at least 24 hours to extinguish. 

The Provianthus wing at Christiansborg, the nearby seat of Denmark's parliament, has been completely evacuated due to fears that it could be affected by flames and smoke. All meetings and hearings at the parliament have been cancelled with employees being told to stay at home. 

 
The Berlingske newspaper posted a video on X showing the moment when the spire collapsed. 

"It's horrible. It was one of the city's most beautiful buildings. I pass by here every day It's Notre Dame all over again," a passer by told Denmark's state broadcaster DR. "You just can't take it in. It's really raging. The flames are like 20m high." 

The Stock Exchange, or Børsen, on Slotsholmen in Copenhagen, was renowned for its spire, which is formed by four twisting dragon tails, and for the three crowns that top it off, symbolising the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. 

The building is located on Slotsholmen in Copenhagen and the spire was completed in 1625, making it one of Copenhagen's oldest buildings. It was built by King Christian IV, just like other iconic Copenhagen landmarks such as the Rundetårn Round Tower, and the Rosenborg Castle. 

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The building is covered in scaffolding for a renovation funded by the A.P. Møller Foundation, which aimed to bring back the original facade following a now regretted 19th century renovation.

The spire of the Stock Exchange building collapsed at about 8:30am. Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix
Copenhagen's fire services said that the building's copper roof was making fighting the fire especially challenging.  

"The copper roof is like a lid on top of the building. It's really nice to look at, but from a fire point of view, it holds a lot of heat, so we have to go under the roof and ensure that the fire doesn't work its way down through the building,"  Andersen told DR. 

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He said the scaffolding covering the building was also made the effort "somewhat more difficult than if it had not been there". 

Copenhagen's emergency services were working non-stop to put out the fire. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Brian Mikkelsen, director of the Danish Chamber of Commerce, was seen running out of the building with firemen carrying some of the expensive art that decorates the building's inner walls.

"We have lost our cultural heritage. It is a huge disaster," he told DR. "This is one of the most important buildings in Denmark, and we were in the process of restoring it so that it could really shine and we could show what it has meant to Danish business for 400 years." 

The Copenhagen Stock Exchange operated from the building until 1974. 

Passers-by were asked to keep away from the building, but the square outside was nonetheless filled with spectators. 

Passers-by observe the blaze from the surrounding square. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

Denmark's prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, expressed her horror at the "terrible images we are seeing right now", in a written comment sent to the Ritzau news agency. 

"The stock exchange is one of Copenhagen's most iconic buildings, a symbol of 400 years of business history in Denmark. Irreplaceable cultural heritage. It hurts to see this," she wrote.

King Frederik said that the burning building had been a "sad sight" to witness on Tuesday morning. 

"An important part of our architectural cultural heritage was and continues to be in flames," he wrote in a statement published on the Royal Court's website. "The Queen and I would like to thank all those who, since early this morning, have ensured that no one has been injured, and who have fought to save as much as possible of both the building and the many cultural treasures and works of art contained in the Stock Exchange." 

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