Thu, Jan 05, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Death toll rises after skating-rink disaster

ROOF COLLAPSE A boy was the twelfth victim to be pulled from the building as hopes faded yesterday that the last three missing people would be saved in time

AP , BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY

Candles and lights sit in the snow yesterday in remembrance of the victims of the roof collapse at the skating rink in Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany. Rescue workers recovered another body from the wreckage of the collapsed skating rink early yesterday, raising the death toll to 12.

PHOTO: AP

Rescue workers recovered another body from the wreckage of a collapsed skating rink in southern Germany early yesterday, raising the death toll to 12.

Local official Rudolf Schaupp said the victim was a boy.

"According to the paramedics, he was certainly killed immediately" after the collapse, Schaupp said.

The body was found after rescue crews and dogs resumed their search of the debris following a lengthy break forced by fears that the wrecked roof could collapse further.

Another three people were still believed trapped under the rubble in the Alpine spa town of Bad Reichenhall.

Hopes were fading of finding survivors from Monday's accident at the end of a second night of snow and freezing temperatures.

A 40-year-old woman and two children remained missing. Seven children were among those already confirmed dead.

Schaupp said relatives of the victims had been brought to the site.

"Maybe it can't calm them but at least they know what the rescue crews are doing," he said.

The roof collapsed after heavy snowfall on Monday afternoon when about 50 people were inside, including many children on Christmas break from school.

On Tuesday afternoon, rescue efforts were halted after one of the collapsed ceiling crossbeams shifted and put pressure on a remaining wall, leading to fears that the ruined and steeply tilted roof could collapse further.

Special cranes were brought in to clear the way, and workers spent the night tearing away pieces of the facade and the remains of the roof. The rescue crews were able to enter the building a little before 4am.

Officials would not predict when the last missing people might be recovered.

However, fire official Rudi Zeif pledged on Tuesday that "we will continue the search until we have rescued or recovered all the missing."

Asked if they could still be alive, he said earthquake victims had survived for several days.

Pumping warm air into the area was considered, but ruled out because it could melt snow, leaving any survivors wet and colder than before.

Rescuers said they hoped the snow could produce an "igloo effect" that might create relatively warm pockets of air.

Rescuers using dogs, shovels and their hands found a five-year-old girl with only minor injuries late on Monday, but had found no one alive and heard no calls for help since then.

Several hundred people gathered on Tuesday for a candlelight vigil at the town hall, and church bells pealed for 20 minutes.

Prosecutors launched an investigation for possible negligence, an automatic step after a fatal accident.

All the victims came from the area around Bad Reichenhall, a town of 15,000 inhabitants on the Austrian border. People in the town questioned why a public building could not withstand a heavy but predictable snowfall.

Experts suggested a structural flaw was a more likely cause than the heavy snow that fell on Monday. City officials said they had measured the snow on the roof and it was still well within the building's margin of safety.

Nonetheless, town officials had planned to close it after the end of the day's public skating because the snow was continuing.

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