Death toll rises in Latvia roof collapse

2013-11-22 11:18
Rescuers work at the Maxima grocery store after its roof collapsed in Riga. (Roman Koksarov, AP)

Rescuers work at the Maxima grocery store after its roof collapsed in Riga. (Roman Koksarov, AP)

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Riga - Rescue workers pulled more bodies from the ruins of a collapsed supermarket in the Latvian capital, Riga, on Friday, taking the death toll to 26 with others feared buried in the rubble.

TV pictures before dawn showed the wreckage of the Maxima store, in a suburb of grey, Soviet-era housing, surrounded by fire trucks and ambulances after the roof collapsed on Thursday when the store was full of shoppers on their way home from work.

The store, estimated at around 500m² in size, was bathed in spotlights as diggers and rescue workers cleared away the wreckage.

"Twenty-one dead found, searching continues," the State Fire and Rescue Service said in a tweet.

Earlier, ambulance service spokesperson Ilze Buksa told Latvian TV that 28 people had been injured and taken to hospital.


It was not clear what caused the collapse, but Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told Latvian TV by telephone: "It is clear that there has been a problem with fulfilment of construction requirements".

Around 25 people waited near the wreckage for news of their relatives. The number of those trapped was so far unknown.

"I have a wife there. There is no information about her, whether she is dead or alive. Wherever I call, there is no information," Igor Umanov told Reuters Television. After 15 hours of rescue works, he said he believed his wife was alive.

Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis told Latvian TV that rescue work may take a long time.

Rescue workers were called to the store, which according to local media had been awarded an architecture prize when it was completed in 2011, late on Thursday. Several were injured by a second collapse because of the building's weakened structure.

Around the clock

Rescue workers were stopping work periodically to listen for survivors and for the sounds of mobile phones in the wreckage, Latvian TV said.

A spokesperson for the Maxima store said that five of its employees had been injured, two had been taken to hospital but three had not yet been found.

"Of course, psychologically it is very hard to work, taking into account that three fire-fighters have died," Latvian rescue services spokesperson Inga Vetere told Latvian radio.

Early on Friday, cranes were working to lift and take off concrete blocks which are hampering rescue efforts, state fire and rescue service chief Oskars Abolins told Latvian TV.

"As we have to search all the rubble and the whole construction, rescue work might continue for another day," he said.

Read more on:    latvia

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