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Building collapses in Germany

March 04, 2009|Associated Press

COLOGNE, GERMANY — Cologne's six-story city archive building groaned and then collapsed in a pile of rubble Tuesday as people inside fled in panic. All managed to escape safely, but police said three people were feared missing in other damaged buildings nearby.

The archive building collapsed about 2 p.m., ripping open and dragging down parts of two adjacent buildings that contained apartments and an amusement arcade. A huge cloud of dust enveloped the site.

Parents at a nearby fast-food outlet grabbed their children and ran for their cars.

"I heard a giant bang and then suddenly saw this giant gray dust cloud," said Mustafa Goresme, 18, who watched from the restaurant. "It was like a Hollywood film."

Alerted by rumbling sounds that preceded the collapse, all staff members and visitors at the Cologne archive were able to get out in time without injuries, fire department director Stephan Neuhoff said.

Officials initially said nine people were feared missing in the neighboring buildings, but police later said all but three had turned up safe.

Neuhoff said rescuers needed to stabilize the area before moving into the rubble to determine whether anyone was trapped inside.

Late Tuesday evening, they pumped concrete into the ground around the area to firm it up.

There was no word on the condition of the archive's contents. Cologne has archive material going back centuries, including manuscripts by communist pioneers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

It was not immediately clear what caused the archive building to collapse.

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