Friday, at least 51 people have been found dead following the roof collapse at a supermarket in Latvian’s capital city, Riga.
Latvian news officials are predicting more deaths as the search continues, as more people are still trapped below the rubble.
This is being called the Baltic state’s worst catastrophe since their 1991 independence from the Soviet Union. The Maxima shopping center roof collapsed during peak shopping hours.
Rescuers rushed to the scene, but many were themselves trapped when the roof of the 500-square-metre shop caved in a second time, killing at least three firefighters and injuring 10 rescue workers.
Three firefighters were among the lives lost, and search teams are continuing the remove rubble in an effort to find more people, hopefully alive.
Rescue Service spokeswoman Viktorija Sembele said, “the firefighters are still working to find people. They are putting away the constructions and still approximately 600 square meters of this collapsed area should be searched through.”
Although there is no evident cause as yet, speculation is that there were materials stored on the roof that caused it to collapse. The building is only 2 years old, so many are considering construction defects could also be the cause.
Riga Mayor Nils Usakovs told reporters that large bags of earth and sand on a weak spot on the roof could have caused the collapse. It had rained for days, leading to speculation that the soil had become soaked and weighed down.
European Commission President Jose Barroso issued a message of condolence after the collapse, “I am deeply saddened by the terrible tragedy,” he said. “Please convey my expression of deepest sympathy and solidarity to the families of the victims and those who lost their lives in rescuing people as well as to all those affected by this tragic accident.”
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