German rescuers halt ice rink search amid collapse fears

3rd January 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 January 2006, BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY - Rescuers had to call off Tuesday their search for bodies in the wreckage of an indoor ice-skating rink in Germany amid fears that walls might collapse on emergency workers.

3 January 2006

BAD REICHENHALL, GERMANY - Rescuers had to call off Tuesday their search for bodies in the wreckage of an indoor ice-skating rink in Germany amid fears that walls might collapse on emergency workers.

Hubertus Andrae, chief of police in the Bavarian region, said a woman and three children aged 12 to 16 were still missing.

At a news conference, he said rescuers had recovered 11 bodies, all of German people from the surrounding area, in the wreckage of the skating-and-pool complex, which collapsed Monday afternoon in the Alpine winter resort of Bad Reichenhall.

County chief Georg Grabner said walls still standing had been distorted and were in acute danger of collapsing.

A salvage company had been commissioned to remove the wooden roof beams of the complex one by one using a powerful crane. Fire chief Rudi Zeif said he was confident the search could then resume on Wednesday morning.

"We are still hopeful that we can find people," he said.

Rescuers said the chances that any of the four were still alive was low because of the freezing cold.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had not given up hope that those buried under the collapsed roof might still be alive.

Merkel said she was upset at the thought of how tragedy struck as children were enjoying "care-free school holidays" with their parents. She said the federal government had offered "every conceivable" help to the state of Bavaria in the wake of the tragedy.

The direct cause of the collapse at a time when snow was piled high on the roof of the building has not been established yet. Prosecutors have opened an inquiry into possible homicide by negligence.

Civic officials rejected reports that the public had been allowed to stay on the rink after the local ice-hockey team's evening practice had been called off because of the danger posed by the roof.

The police chief said the cancellation had been a precaution, based on a forecast of more snow that would increase the load by evening. The roof collapsed at 4 p.m., just as the rink was scheduled to close to the general public.

The fire chief said the snow Monday had been heavy but not unusual. Officials in Bad Reichenhall, close to the Austrian border, also denied that inspectors had found structural faults previously in the 32-year-old complex.

Bad Reichenhall Mayor Wolfgang Heitmeier said Monday that ice-rink employees had measured the roof's snow cover to verify that the building's load limit had not been surpassed. The measured level was below the threshold.

Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber said the time had not yet come to consider who might be to blame for the disaster.

DPA

Subject: German news

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