Nine missing as Cologne archive building collapses

4th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

An evacuation took place after the building started making strange noises.

Cologne -- Up to nine people were missing on Tuesday after the building containing Cologne's historical archives and an adjacent apartment block collapsed, German officials said.

"There is an eyewitness report that a married couple was seen at the window of the apartment block when it collapsed," according to city officials. "There have also been indications that seven other people could be missing."

The four-storey archive building in the western German city centre was evacuated shortly before it caved in just before 2:00 pm local time, city hall spokesman Gregor Timmer told AFP at the scene.

The head of Cologne's fire brigade Stephan Neuhoff said that nobody was injured and that the evacuation took place after the building started making strange noises, the city's statement added.

There were around 250 rescue workers at the scene as well as 86 fire engines and sniffer dogs. A third building was also badly damaged, Timmer said.

Susanne Vandenberg told WDR television she was having a coffee inside the archives when people started shouting.

"We all ran out of the archives," she said. "I turned round and the front of the building started to collapse, the first windows started falling down. So I started to run. There was a huge cloud of dust behind me."

The archives house 65,000 original documents dating from the year 922 as well as maps, films and photos and items left to the city by figures like composer Jacques Offenbach and Nobel Prize-winning author Heinrich Boell.

The building that collapsed has been in use as an archive since 1971.

News reports said that the disaster may have been caused by renovations taking place on the city's metro line in the area, but a spokeswoman for the city said that the work had finished.

"There was no work taking place directly underneath the building," a spokesman for the metro operator said on NTV. "As far as I know there was no building work taking place that could have caused this to happen."


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