Arson suspected in hotel inferno

Police suspect that a fire which raged through a hotel in Eskilstuna in central Sweden early Wednesday morning was deliberately set.

Arson suspected in hotel inferno

“We’ve launched a preliminary investigation into suspicions of arson. Several details suggest that the fire was started deliberately, but we don’t want to say more than that,” said Sörmland police spokesperson Lars Franzell to the TT news agency.

The head of emergency services in Eskilstuna, Owe Thörn, told TT that three people were taken to hospital with mild smoke-related injuries.

By 6.30am all guests staying at the Quality Hotel Statt had been evacuated.

“All 113 guests have been brought to safety and we’ve checked them against the hotel’s guest registry,” said Thörn, who described the mood as calm, adding that no one appeared to be suffering from shock following the incident.

Nevertheless, the town has set up a support group to care for those affected by the blaze.

The fire broke out in the hotel’s basement restaurant around 4am.

According to Thörn, the fire then spread throughout the oldest section of the building, a three-storey structure with an annex on top facing Hamngatan.

Soon most of hotel was engulfed in flames and firefighters from several nearby departments were called to assist with the evacuation before turning their attention to extinguishing inferno.

By 8.30am, the fire was under control.

“Now all that remains is the final extinguishing of the fire, which will take the entire day,” said Thörn.

He estimated that about half of one of the hotel’s two buildings was completely destroyed.


Sweden’s Gävle Christmas goat ready to return for festive season

Sweden's straw yule goat Gävlebocken, whose biggest claim to fame is its tendency to get burned down every year, is all set for its annual return on Sunday.

Sweden's Gävle Christmas goat ready to return for festive season
The ill-fated 2016 Gävlebocken. Photo: Pernilla Wahlman/TT

Every year, the Christmas goat (Gävlebocken) in the Slottstorget square in Gävle, central Sweden, attracts a media storm with locals dreaming up new ways to protect the arson-prone 13-metre-high creation.

Despite their efforts, including in some years spraying the goat in anti-flammable liquid, the goat usually goes up in flames long before Swedes have opened their Christmas presents.

Last year, the goat surprisingly made it to Boxing Day intact, to the delight of organisers, who were reported to have put a “secret” plan into effect to protect it.

In 2016 it was less fortunate, going down in flames mere hours after its inauguration.

READ ALSO: 'Memorial' to be held for Sweden's giant yule goat

“Many people are invested” in the straw goat in Gävle, Maria Wallberg of the town’s municipality told TT.

The central Swedish town is naturally proud of its luckless Christmas decoration, despite the fact it has burned town 29 times during its 50-year history.

Thousands of people are expect to attend the unveiling of the goat on Sunday, with the ceremony to be presented by Swedish comedian Clara Henry.

“It means an incredible amount that the city has such a strong symbol which is known all over the world,” Wallberg said.

Security around the giant goat is expected to be high, both during its inauguration day and throughout December. Security guards and cameras will both be deployed to keep an eye on it behind its fencing, while a taxi rank has been moved to the square to increase the presence of people in the area.

“For security reasons, we can’t go into too much detail,” Wallberg said of any further precautions.

Historical precedent is against Gävlebocken. In its first year, 1966, it burned down on New Year’s Eve and it has only made it through the entire month on 15 occasions. It has been burned, stolen and vandalised. In 1976, someone drove a stock car into it.

Orörd = undamaged; uppeldad = burned down; annan skada = otherwise damaged; oklart öde = fate unknown. Graphic: TT

“An attack early in the season would mean cancellations at hotels and restaurants. So it is incredibly important for Gävle, Gävle’s businesses and for everyone who wants to visit the goat that it is still standing at New Year,” Wallberg said.

READ ALSO: Five weirdest attacks on Gävle's arson-prone Christmas goat