The list of people who died after the collapse of a popular supermarket roof in the capital of Latvia has risen to 53, officials confirm, and the rescue operation has resumed after a temporary halt.
“As we are still working inside, the situation may change,” Normunds Plegermanis, deputy head of rescue and emergency service, said on Friday. “Falls are happening from time to time. Therefore it is very dangerous to work inside,”
As The Washington Post writes, Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Viktorija Sembele reported that some 300 square meters of ruins — approximately one-sixth of the total damaged area — is still to be searched.
She went on, adding there was a chance that more victims of the roof crash could be found but the area is quite dangerous because of the risk of further collapse of the construction.
Rescue workers decided to stop the searching operations on Saturday morning to consult with engineers whether it’s possible to continue, the spokeswoman revealed.
The roof of one of the Riga’s supermarkets fell Thursday evening when customers were doing after-work shopping. On Saturday morning about many of the injured were still hospitalized.
The country’s police is currently investigating what exactly can cause the disaster.
“It is clear that there has been a problem with fulfillment of construction requirements,” Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis told Latvian TV by telephone.
Local media have previously reported that workers had been building a roof garden on the store which was built back in Soviet-era.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the supermarket told local media that five of its employees had been injured in the building’s collapse, two had been taken to hospital and three had not yet been found.
“Of course, psychologically it is very hard to work, taking into account that three fire-fghters have died,” Inga Vetere, a rescue-services spokeswoman, said.
Police reposted that the death toll had reached 53, including three rescue workers. Thirty-eight more were injured and taken to hospitals. They said no survivors had been found in the past few hours.
“We’re still having moments of silence to listen for voices of people trapped, but unfortunately the only voices out there are of firefighters working,” state police spokesman Toms Sadovskis said.
Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs took to Twitter to announce that about five people might be still trapped inside the ruined building.
Ambulance chief Armands Plorins said cold, damp and the passage of time were all reducing the chance of finding more survivors. “But, of course, hope always remains.”
Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis announced three days of mourning starting from Saturday. The officials claim that the tragedy had shattered the whole country, a former Soviet republic which joined the European Union about a decade ago and will join Euro zone next year.
“In our thoughts we are together with all those stricken by this tragedy,” Dombrovskis said. “No matter what the cause of the tragedy is, the number of victims is too big.”