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At Least 10 Die as Roof of German Ice Rink Collapses

The facility had been planning to close in a few minutes as a precaution, the mayor says. Heavy snowfall appears to be to blame.

January 03, 2006|Jeffrey Fleishman | Times Staff Writer

BERLIN — A roof heavy with snow collapsed Monday on an ice skating rink in Germany's Bavarian Alps, killing at least 10 people, injuring dozens and leaving about 10 people missing as rescue workers searched through the wreckage and listened for survivors.

The collapse occurred about 4 p.m. in the town of Bad Reichenhall near the Austrian border. Police said about 50 people were inside the 32-year-old building when the roof's girders crumpled. Rescue workers used cranes and other heavy equipment Monday night and into this morning in an attempt to hoist part of the roof and reach those trapped.

Television images showed heavy snow falling as about 400 workers cleared away concrete and steel as parents called out for missing children. Sniffer dogs scurried around the fallen building. Medical tents were set up and doctors and nurses treated 30 injured, sending the more serious cases to nearby hospitals.

"I think the number of dead will rise further," police spokesman Johann Bohnert told reporters. One relief agency worker told German media that many children could be among the dead and injured. Officials said no sounds were coming from the collapsed building late Monday.

"The situation is catastrophic," said an official with the Bavarian Red Cross.

There were reports that an ice hockey club had canceled an evening practice after a manager was informed that the roof was unstable.

The manager, Thomas Rumpeltes, told German public television that he was alerted of possible dangers at 3:30 p.m. "Ice skating for the public evidently still went on," he said.

Bad Reichenhall's mayor, Wolfgang Heitmeier, said at a televised news conference that officials had decided they would close the rink when public skating was over at 4 p.m.

But minutes before, according to German radio, skaters were told to quickly leave the rink as the roof began to creak and buckle.

The mayor said the roof was straining under the snow, but he added that the stress was within safety limits. The local newspaper last year said the building was run-down, but on Monday the mayor and a local police spokesman discounted such criticism.

An investigation is underway. The region has been buffeted by heavy snow in recent days. More than 12 inches had fallen since early Monday.

"Our rescue workers are expecting not just seriously injured people, but also people suffering from hypothermia," Peter Volk, a spokesman for the Malteser relief agency, told Associated Press.

The rink was part of a sports hall that also housed a swimming pool.

Times staff writer Petra Falkenberg contributed to this report.

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