47 die after store roof collapses in Latvia
At least 47 people have been killed after a supermarket roof collapsed in the Latvian capital Riga.
A section of the store caved in just before 6pm yesterday when the shop was packed with hundreds of customers. A further collapse an hour later killed three firemen.
Nils Usakovs, the mayor of Riga, said at least 25 people were still missing.
Toms Sadovskis, a spokesman for the Latvian police, said a criminal investigation had been opened, linked to possible violations of construction laws.
He said a winter garden was being built on the supermarket's roof and witnesses said they saw it littered with bags of soil and piles of cobblestones just before it gave way.
Rihards Kozlovskis, the Latvian interior minister, said: "It is clear that the disaster was caused by somebody's fault. We are not talking about being hit by an earthquake or a storm: we are talking about a building collapsing when all is peaceful."
The investigation into the causes of the collapse started as rescue workers, backed by troops, picked their way through the shattered remains of the supermarket in the hope of finding survivors. But with temperatures dropping close to freezing, hopes of pulling anybody else alive from the ruins appear slim.
Only the ringing of victims' mobile telephones provided an indication of where people were beneath the rubble. Security camera tapes are being used to help determine where shoppers were during the collapse.
The tiny Baltic state has declared three days of national mourning.
Rescue workers said the search for survivors was proceeding slowly, since both the rubble and the remaining sections of the roof were fragile and could collapse further.
It was estimated about 500 square metres of the roof collapsed, destroying large sections of the store's high walls and nearly all its front windows.
Several large construction cranes gingerly hauled metal slabs and other debris from the central hole, while bulldozers cleared paths into the store. About one-third of the rubble still needed to be removed last night.
The building was completed in November 2011.
The Lithuania-owned Maxima was reportedly renting the space.
Maxima said it would release a statement later. (© Daily Telegraph, London)