Originally published on November 23, 2013
At least 51 people, including three firefighters, were killed and dozens of others trapped when a supermarket roof collapsed in Latvia's capital, Riga, on Thursday evening. On Friday, police said the number of injured people stood at thirty-eight and no survivors had been found in the past few hours.
At about 6pm local time, Thursday, the supermarket, owned by the Maxima supermarket chain, was packed with shoppers buying groceries on their way home from work. The roof suddenly collapsed, burying dozens of people. Firefighters responded quickly, but a second collapse occurred, trapping several of them. Three firefighters are now known to be among the 51 dead.
Building materials for a rooftop garden could still be seen stacked around the remaining rooftop area of the supermarket. Officials say the weight of the bricks and soil stacked on the roof may have caused the collapse. Recent heavy rains may have exacerbated the problem. A criminal investigation has been opened to determine the cause, with the Interior Minister, Rihards Kozlovskis, saying "It is clear that there has been a problem with fulfillment of construction requirements."
On Friday, cranes lifted large slabs from the wreckage of the Maxima store, in a Riga suburb of grey, Soviet-era housing, to find those still trapped. Rescue workers cleared away rubble from the store, which had occupied around 1,500 square meters (16,150 square feet), as ambulances and fire engines stood by.
"We're still having moments of silence to listen for voices of people trapped, but unfortunately the only voices out there are of firefighters working," state police spokesman Toms Sadovskis said.
Around 80 firefighters and 56 trainees from a firefighting college continued relentlessly to search for people still trapped more than 24 hours after the accident. To help rescuers, police created a map, based on security camera footage, showing where shoppers were standing at the time of the collapse.
State rescue service chief Oskars Abolins told TV the search was slow because the rubble was up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) deep. Firefighters were clearing it by hand and with shovels. Abolins said rescue work was expected to continue all night. Firefighters still had to search around 400 square meters for any people, dead or alive. Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs tweeted that around five people might be still trapped.
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