Officials comb building after deadly cobra escapes apartment in Germany

Image: Snake experts at work in front of a residential building in Herne, w
Snake experts at work at a residential building in Herne, western Germany, where a deadly cobra was on the loose. Copyright Christoph Reichwein
By Linda Givetash with NBC News World News
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Roughly 20 snakes were confiscated from a man's apartment in Herne, Germany, while officials searched for the fugitive reptile.


Officials and fire crews in the city of Herne, in western Germany, were combing every vent and corridor of an apartment block on Thursday in search of a deadly cobra.

"We are trying everything to reinstate security so that people can return to their apartments," Herne Mayor Frank Dudda said during a press conference.

The roughly 4.6-foot long cobra escaped from one of the residents' apartments as early as Sunday, having been spotted in a hallway. Four buildings within the block, connected by a cellar, were evacuated with its more than 30 residents being forced to stay with family, friends and at a city shelter.

While officials believe the cobra is likely in the cellar, people living in the area have been warned to avoid walking through high grasses.

Snakeskin found in the cellar of the building on Thursday wasn't enough evidence to ensure the reptile was still in the building, the city's council head Johannes Chudziak said.

A deadly monocled cobra at the doorway of a residential building in Herne, western Germany, from where he escaped.
A deadly monocled cobra at the doorway of a residential building in Herne, western Germany, from where he escaped.Collin Bleck

The antivenin required to treat this particular snakebite is in store at a nearby Duesseldorf hospital in the event someone is bitten, officials said.

A special unit of the local fire department and snake experts have been employed to conduct the search. A special double-sided sticky tape was laid out in areas of the building in attempt to trap the venomous reptile. There are also considerations to seal the building with foil and then release a biological gas that would kill the reptile.

The man who owned the cobra kept another 20 snakes in his apartment, all of which have been confiscated by authorities. How and why he owned the animals is unclear.

"We do not know when he bought them, sold them or lost them," Dudda said.

The incident as reignited public debate over the introduction of a dangerous animal law that would prohibit residents from keeping such species. "The present regulations are not sufficient," Dudda said on Thursday.

A law at the city level had been drafted to ban dangerous species but has not yet been finalized.

State lawmakers had in tried to enforce a similar law to pan people from keeping animals like venomous snakes, crocodiles, scorpions or big cats in 2014, according to the German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle. But the legislation faced pushback from municipalities and was eventually dropped.

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