Gothenburg blast: Here’s what we do (and don’t) know so far

UPDATED: Two people remained in intensive care on Wednesday after an apartment block explosion in Gothenburg the day before, which police said was likely not due to natural causes. Here's what we know about the incident.

Gothenburg blast: Here's what we do (and don't) know so far
Emergency services on the scene on Tuesday morning. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall /TT

What happened?

The first reports of an explosion and fire came at 4.48am, according to police. The incident took place in a residential apartment block on Övre Husargatan in Annedal, central Gothenburg, and led to at least 16 people requiring hospital care and more than 100 needing to leave their homes.

Firefighters, police and emergency services were on the scene quickly, but it was only by midday that the fires were brought under control.

Police have opened a preliminary investigation into ‘destruction causing public endangerment’, and also opened a so-called special incident, meaning the standard police force requires extra resources.

Who was hurt?

After initial reports that up to 25 people had been injured, Sahlgrenska University Hospital confirmed late on Tuesday morning that 16 people were admitted.

“In total there are 16 people who have been admitted, of which four are seriously injured and the rest have minor injuries,” said hospital spokesperson Ingrid Fredriksson.

She said the four who were seriously injured included three women, aged in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and a man in his 50s.

The majority were able to leave the hospital by Wednesday morning, but two were still being cared for in the intensive care unit, according to the Göteborgs-Post.

In addition to those who were injured, residents of the 140 apartments in the building were evacuated from their homes, and had to spend the night with family or in hotels. More than 50 people had gone to the nearby Saron Church for assistance, several of them in shock or cold, having fled their apartments in only pyjamas and dressing gowns.

What was it like for those in the apartment block?

Eyewitnesses and residents of the building told the TT newswire how they were woken by the explosion and had to escape through smoke-filled stairwells.

“At first I thought I was dreaming. Then came the smell. I walked around the apartment to see if anything was on fire. Then one of my daughters woke up and we heard screams in the yard,” a woman living in the building said. “I took my three-year-old under my arm and my six-year-old in my hand, took a deep breath and ran through the dark and smoky stairwell out into the yard.”

Some residents were rescued from their buildings by firefighters, while others made their way down using homemade ropes.

“We live on the second floor. My husband tied together sheets that we could use to get down,” one woman told TT.

What caused the blast?

As of midday on Tuesday, it was not clear what caused the explosion, partly because police have not yet been able to access the building fully.

However, a police spokesperson did tell a press conference they did not believe it was due to natural causes.

Are there any suspects?

As of Wednesday morning, police had not shared any information about potential suspects.

What are the next steps in the police investigation?

According to a police statement, they are currently working with questioning witnesses, accessing surveillance footage, and will carry out a technical investigation of the scene when they are able to access the building, which is expected to be on Wednesday. First, a bomb squad will secure the site, then dog patrols and technicians will enter.

“There are always remnants [from an explosive] and we want to try to secure and analyze them in order to hopefully arrive at what type of materials may have been used. There may also be DNA on cigarette butts and the like,” police press spokesperson Christer Fuxborg told the TT newswire.

Police are also looking into whether any threats had been made against building residents. Several media outlets have reported that a police officer who worked against organized crime and testified in several trials lives at the address.

“These are just hypotheses so far. We turn every stone in such matters before we find a track that is the most interesting,” said Fuxborg.

What’s the political reaction?

Prime Minister Stefan Löfven held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, in which he said the explosion “affects our whole country”.

Although it has not been confirmed that the blast was the result of criminal activity, Löfven said he understood that members of the public were worried. “It is obvious that people will worry and feel scared and shaken. That is why it is so incredibly important that we come together as a society,” he said.

How common is this type of incident in Sweden?

It is not common, and Sweden has a low crime rate. But in recent years, there has been a rise in the use of explosives by criminal gangs, as well as in gun violence. Criminologists have previously spoken to The Local about a pattern of increasing violence and recklessness among gang members.

Most of the explosions target empty buildings or vehicles, suggesting that causing harm to people is not the intention, and indeed injuries are relatively rare, but they do happen.

The most recent explosion on the scale of the Gothenburg incident was in Linköping in June 2019, also affecting an apartment block. In that blast, around 20 people were injured, none of them seriously, with police saying the lack of serious injuries was “absolutely incredible”.

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Red-green coalition takes power in Gothenburg

The Social Democrats, Green Party and Left Party have managed to oust the right-wing Moderates from power in Gothenburg, despite failing to strike a coalition deal with the Centre Party.

Red-green coalition takes power in Gothenburg

The Social Democrats, Left Party and Green Party will now take over the municipality with Jonas Attenius, group leader for the Social Democrats in the city, becoming the new mayor.

“We three parties are ready to together take responsibility for leading Gothenburg,” Attenius wrote to TT. “I am looking forward immensely to leading Gothenburg in the coming years.” 

The three parties will lead a minority government, with 40 out of 81 mandates, meaning it will dependent on mandates from the Centre Party to pass proposals. 

The three parties had hoped to bring the Centre Party into the coalition, but talks fell apart on Monday,  October 24th. 

“We our going into opposition, but our goal is to be an independent, liberal force, which can negotiate both to the left and to the right,” the party’s group leader in Gothenburg, Emmyly Bönfors told the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper. 

The end of talks in Gothenburg leave the Social Democrats leading coalition governments in all three of Sweden’s major cities, with Karin Wanngård appointed Mayor of Stockholm on October 17th. 

The Social Democrats had unbroken control in Malmö since 1994, after they regained power from the Moderates, who controlled the city from 1991-1994, and also from 1985-1988.