29.01.2021Heroes in action: Gas explosion causing building collapse

Six people were injured and one person died in an explosion in a multi-apartment building in Langenzersdorf (AT), which occurred in the morning of 29 January 2021. Several floors were destroyed by the detonation. A large contingent of rescue workers was deployed to the scene, including search and rescue dog teams of the IRO member organisation SKV-KHD. IRO Spokesperson for Deployment Markus Bock was also on site with his dog Egmont and describes what happened.


On 29 January at about 8.00 a.m. a serious gas explosion occurred in Langenzersdorf in the district of Korneuburg, Austria. In accordance with the valid alarm plan "B-4" for such an event, the volunteer fire brigade of Langenzersdorf and other fire brigades from the municipalities of Korneuburg, Bisamberg and Stockerau were immediately alerted by the control centre "Florian Stockerau". The Red Cross and the "Berufsrettung Wien" were also called to help. At the same time, a fire-fighting unit of the "Berufsfeuerwehr Wien" was deployed.


In accordance with the request of the communication centre Stockerau with the wording "house collapse after gas explosion", additional forces of the disaster relief unit of the Vienna Fire Brigade with the response groups "technical detection" and "search and rescue dogs" were sent to Langenzersdorf.


As I live in Korneuburg, the neighbouring village of Langenzersdorf, I immediately set off with my dog Egmont to the disaster site after having received the assignment. The circumstances presented themselves as follows: 


A gas explosion had severely damaged a residential complex with about 40 apartments on the south-east corner. Four of the flats on two floors had completely collapsed, the adjacent roof structure, which was still intact, was in full fire. Small fires were also blazing in the area of the collapse site.


To get the fire under control, firefighters fought it from the outside using two rotating ladders as well as from the ground. A fire-fighting attack was also carried out inside the house. Within about ten minutes upon my arrival, the large fire on the roof was under control and the fire brigades began to fight the glowing nests and smouldering fires under the collapsed roof structure.


While fighting the fire, the operations command decided to carry out first location attempts with biological and technical means. For this purpose, two search and rescue dog teams were lowered into the partially collapsed flats using rotating ladders and aerial platforms. At this point, there were already seven dog handlers with ten search and rescue dogs from the volunteer search and rescue dog unit of the Vienna Fire Brigade on site.


As this attempt proved to be unsuccessful, another approach was made by the search and rescue dogs via the staircase while the technical search group was working with search cameras. However, this proved to be unfeasible, as the stairway was so heavily filled with smoke from the first floor upwards that it would only have been possible to proceed by using self-contained breathing devices, and therefore search and rescue dogs could not proceed here either.


Thereupon, we moved with our dogs to a stand-by area near the scene of the accident to observe the further development of the situation. At about 12.00 o'clock we received information that all the residents of the house could be reached by the police - except for one person. This person's flat was on the completely destroyed third floor.


Consequently, it was almost certain that survival was not possible under the circumstances that prevailed immediately after the collapse. For this reason and due to the massive danger of collapse, the mission for the search and rescue dogs was terminated by the operations command.


After another six hours, the body of the missing man was found under the rubble, after the debris had been removed by a specialised company with the help of the fire brigade and the Austrian Armed Forces. The man had no chance of survival.




Markus Bock – IRO Spokesperson for Deployment



Photos: SKV-KHD


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