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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"For those who lived, there is still the nightmare of remembering"
 real 56k

Saturday, 26 May, 2001, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Wedding disaster search halted
The building had become unsafe
The building had become unsafe
Rescue workers in Jerusalem have abandoned their search for any more survivors from a collapsed wedding hall after at least 23 bodies were pulled from the rubble.

They say all the guests and employees have now been accounted for.

On the basis of a thorough investigation by the Israeli police, there are no more people in the building

Major General Gabi Ofir
Earlier reports said about a dozen people were still missing, all thought to be members of staff who were catering to the large wedding.

The army called off the search as preparations were being made for more funerals, which took place when the Jewish Sabbath ended on Saturday evening.

Terrifying video

An army spokesman said the operation was called off partly because the risk of continuing the search in the unstable ruins of the three-storey building was too great.

He said the building would be handed over the Jerusalem municipality which he understood planned to level the site.

Hundreds of people were attending the wedding party on Thursday when the floor of the Versailles hall in west Jerusalem gave way, injuring more than 300 people.

More than 160 people remain in hospital, including 16 who are in serious condition.

I did not understand what happened at all at first, I did not know what I was doing or where I was. I was in another world

Wedding videographer David Amromin

The exact moment that celebration turned to tragedy was captured in a terrifying video.

Footage broadcast repeatedly worldwide showed guests dancing, some with children in their arms, and then suddenly disappearing as the floor collapsed.

Israeli police, who have launched a criminal investigation, say the building collapsed because of structural failure and they have detained eight people.

According to Israel TV's Channel Two, a preliminary investigation of the collapse pointed to negligence in the original 1986 construction, and indicated that a supporting column was removed in renovations three months ago.

Rescue workers
Prayers were held at the scene of the disaster

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who called the accident a "national disaster," said he would convene a special Cabinet meeting to look into the possibility of launching an official commission of inquiry.

The city's deputy mayor said the building, which stood in Talpiot industrial area, had been built for an industrial purpose - not to hold wedding receptions.

Survivor's stories

Survivors of disaster have been telling of their experiences.

Shlomi Srur said he told his son during the celebration, "the floor is trembling here, something is wrong. I have a bad feeling."

Funeral of wedding disaster victim
The body of three-year-old Itai Yakov Dayan is carried to his grave
Within minutes, his wife and two of his sons were hurled into the chasm and killed.

Alisa Dror, the bridegroom's mother, said she had just congratulated her son and sent him off to dance with his bride when the floor swallowed up the revellers.

"The wall collapsed on them, the floor, the tables," she said from her hospital bed.

Among the injured were the bride and groom - Keren and Assaf Dror; she suffered pelvic injuries but her husband was only slightly injured.

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See also:

25 May 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Jerusalem disaster
25 May 01 | Middle East
How the tragedy unfolded
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