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Supermarket collapse is Latvia’s biggest disaster since 1991

By Howard Jarvis. 23.11.2013

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Three days of official mourning begin for victims of Latvia’s biggest disaster since 1991

At least 30 people remain trapped under rubble and 52 are confirmed dead after the roof of a recently constructed supermarket collapsed in a western suburb of Riga on Thursday night. 

Latvia has begun three days of official mourning, taking place from November 23 to 25. It is the country’s biggest disaster since it regained independence in 1991.

Three rescuers are among the dead, the State Fire and Rescue Service said, killed when a second section of the roof of the Maxima XX building fell in on those who had survived the first collapse.

“We can’t conduct the work faster, because we need to first clear the building from large concrete panels and then clear the smaller debris,” Oskars Āboliņš, the head of the rescue service, told reporters.

Around 500 square meters of the roof caved in. The first section fell at about 6pm on Thursday evening when the store was busy with people returning home from work. Rescuers and other responders rushed to the scene only for a second cave-in to occur 20 minutes later.

A construction fault is likely to have been the cause of the disaster. A roof garden was being created on the roof at the time, and heavy building materials and soil had been loaded there over the preceding days. The building was constructed in 2011 by the company Re&Re, which was also overseeing the work on the roof garden.

Eyewitnesses say that an alarm sounded approximately two hours before the roof collapsed but that a decision was made to ignore it.

Some 400 people are continuing to work at the scene including National Armed Force soldiers, police, home guards, fire brigades and units of medics. The death toll is likely to rise.


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