Wed, Jan 04, 2006 - Page 6 News List

At least 10 dead as ice rink collapses

RACE AGAINST TIME Rescuers yesterday used cranes to hold up the collapsed roof of the skating rink in the Bavarian Alps so that they could search for survivors

AFP , BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY

Rescue workers try to find people under the collapsed roof of a skating rink in Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, yesterday. Rescuers dug with construction equipment, shovels and their hands in freezing weather to find people feared trapped at the skating rink.

PHOTO: AP

Rescue workers searched frantically for survivors yesterday in the wreckage of a collapsed ice rink in the Bavarian Alps as police raised the death toll to at least 10, many of them children.

Battling snow and cold, with rescuers fearing more parts of the roof could still fall in, the search in the town of Bad Reichenhall has developed into a race against time.

Six cranes were holding up the parts of the roof that were still intact as sniffer dogs were sent in to hunt for skaters trapped in the debris.

The rescue operation was also hampered by continuing heavy snow, with more bad weather forecast for yesterday.

Police said five bodies, including three children, had been retrieved from the debris of the rink, while a fourth child died on the way to a hospital in the nearby Austrian city of Salzburg.

Rescue teams, who worked through the night, have located four other bodies, but have been unable to pull them from the rubble.

"We are assuming that we will find still more dead," said Franz Sommerauer, the police spokesman in the nearby town of Traunstein.

Rescuers held some hope of finding survivors after hearing noises probably made by people trapped under the rubble, the German television network ZDF said.

The accident, which occurred on Monday afternoon, also left 35 people injured, 18 of them seriously.

About 50 people were in the building at the time of the collapse, including many families.

Bad Reichenhall had been hit by heavy snow following a blizzard that began overnight Sunday, but the region is accustomed to heavy snowfall each winter.

The victims so far included a woman of 35 and her eight-year-old daughter, another girl aged seven and a boy aged 13, police said earlier.

Another boy, 12, was rescued and initially resuscitated, but died before he could be brought to a hospital in Salzburg.

A further 32 people were injured, some seriously.

The tragedy came amid heavy snowfall on one of the final days of Germany's Christmas school holidays, police and local officials said.

Police expected the death toll to rise.

"Several bodies have been detected among the rubble and they are probably dead, although for the moment we cannot reach them," Hubertus Andra, heading the rescue effort, told reporters.

An added complication is that any survivors may be pressed against the ice and at risk of hypothermia, said a spokesman for the private aid group Maltese Association, which sent staff to counsel victims' families.

"We fear that we will find many children among the dead and the injured," the association's local spokesman Peter Volk said.

Seven hundred rescue workers, including staff from nearby Salzburg, rushed to the scene, while many residents of this Alpine spa resort waited nearby in for news of relatives or friends. Specially-trained avalanche dogs were also deployed.

They did get some good news late on Monday; shortly after 10pm GMT -- around seven hours after the roof collapsed -- a woman and a six-year-old girl were pulled from the debris suffering only from bruising and the cold.

It was not immediately certain what caused the roof of the building, which dates from the 1970s, to collapse despite the heavy snowfall.

The coach of a local ice hockey club, Thomas Rumpeltes, said overlying snow was due to have been cleared from the roof before its collapse.

Rumpeltes said that authorities told him of the impending clearance at 2:30pm GMT -- half an hour before the accident -- and he cancelled a practice at the rink for a youth team.

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