Death toll at collapsed German ice rink rises to 14

4th January 2006, Comments 0 comments

4 January 2006, BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY - With 14 bodies recovered at a devastated indoor ice-skating rink in Germany and much of the rubble cleared, rescue dogs were sent into the remaining wreckage Wednesday to search for the last person missing, a woman.

4 January 2006

BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY - With 14 bodies recovered at a devastated indoor ice-skating rink in Germany and much of the rubble cleared, rescue dogs were sent into the remaining wreckage Wednesday to search for the last person missing, a woman.

In the town of Bad Reichenhall, chief of police Hubertus Andrae said rescuers had found three bodies, of a girl and two boys in the 12-16 age group, on Wednesday. Most of the dead were recovered Monday, just after the hall collapsed under the weight of snow.

A debate was meanwhile under way in Germany on whether all public buildings should be repeatedly inspected by construction engineers. Currently buildings are only checked once, when they are put up, and only the safety of theatres and bridges must be checked regularly.

Pope Benedict XVI, who spent his childhood in Traunstein, just 25 kilometres from the scene of the accident at the foot of the Alps, sent a condolence telegram Wednesday to Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, archbishop of Munich.

He said he would remember the victims, especially all the children, in his prayers, and pray for their grieving families. The archdiocese said he also wished the survivors a speedy recovery.

Residents placed lighted candles outside the Bad Reichenhall town hall Wednesday as a sign of hope for the missing woman.

Rescuers said it was unlikely she was still alive. Sniffer dogs that had located most of the other bodies were trying to pick up her scent. Andrae said that once she was found, all the rubble would be removed just in case someone else was trapped.

"It's an issue of thoroughness," he told a news conference.

Demolition workers had used three giant hydraulic grabs under floodlights through the night to pick away broken wooden beams so that it was safe for rescuers to resume a search for survivors in the shaky wreckage.

Questions continued as to why the building, belonging to the town council of Bad Reichenhall, failed on Monday as local children were skating inside. Eighteen survivors were taken to hospital Monday and 16 treated at the scene for cuts and bruises.

German consultant engineers this week demanded legally mandated annual checks of all public buildings, but most authorities said it was too early to say if this could have prevented the disaster.

Currently the system in Germany is that owners of collapsing buildings can be sued for damages by the victims. Public engineer Wolfgang Schubert of the Bavarian interior ministry said regular building checks would "cost a lot of time and a lot of money".

Versicherungskammer Bayern, the public agency that insured the ice-rink, said it was not yet clear if anyone was liable for its collapse. Police have photographed and marked key components of the building for analysis later and have begun a criminal inquiry.

DPA

Subject: German news

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