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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 16:10 GMT
Moscow pool rescue abandoned
Workers at site of collapsed roof of the Transvaal water park in Moscow
Some bodies are thought to be in the rubble
The search for survivors in Moscow's collapsed water park has been called off, as the mayor said up to 13 bodies could still be buried.

At least 25 died and more than 100 were hurt when the giant glass roof of the Transvaal centre collapsed on Saturday. Prosecutors have launched a criminal inquiry into suspected poor building or maintenance at the complex.

The emergencies ministry said on Monday that workers had stopped looking for survivors and were now clearing up.

The park was packed when the roof caved in, showering shards of glass on those below; terrified survivors fled in their swimming costumes.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that, judging by telephone calls to a special hotline and the number of unclaimed belongings at the pool, between nine and 13 bodies could remain at the site.

There was a loud noise. Everybody started to run. I started to run. All of the roof over the water zone collapsed

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered condolences to the victims of the tragedy.

He has demanded that a thorough investigation be carried out and that those responsible be punished, his press service told the Interfax news agency.

Initial reports suggest poor building work or heavy snow piled up on the roof might have caused it to collapse.

Representatives of the architectural firm, the builders and the water park's management are being questioned about the incident.

Mr Luzhkov said earlier there was no evidence a blast had caused the disaster and that there had been no snow on the roof.

Press condemnation

Russian newspapers were quick to point the finger of blame, accusing the local construction industry of being riddled with corruption.

"Who built such a water park?" demanded the Kommersant business daily.

Transvaal swimming park, Moscow
Moscow's biggest water park
Opened 2002
Has artificial river, bowling alley, sauna and solarium
The Gazeta daily suggested: "The most important thing is to build it quickly and sell it - nobody cares about what happens after that."

The government agency in charge of construction has temporarily suspended the licences of the Turkish company that built the park, Kocak Insaat, and the Russian architectural firm that designed it.

Agency chief Nikolai Koshman said an official panel into the accident would report preliminary conclusions by the end of the week after an examination of the foundations, ground conditions, design decisions and the quality of metal and concrete used.

Ismail Kocak, the building firm's owner, told Turkish newspapers he was not responsible for the incident.

"We built the roof so that it could withstand 1.5m (5 feet) of snow, but there were three metres of snow (10 feet) at the time of the incident," he told the daily Milliyet.

He denied allegations that low-quality materials were used in construction.

Nearly 1,000 rescuers with sniffer dogs rushed to the leisure complex in the capital's south-west immediately after Saturday's incident.

They worked through the night, in temperatures as low as -15C (5F), stopping at regular intervals to listen for voices in the rubble. They dug out more bodies on Sunday.

Four children were among those killed, the Emergency Ministry said.

More than 800 people were in the leisure complex when its vast roof caved in. More than 300 are thought to have been in the swimming pools.

Witnesses spoke of their horror and panic when they heard the cracking sound of the roof caving in.

"There was a loud noise," one of the witnesses told Russia's Channel One television.

"Everybody started to run. I started to run. All of the roof over the water zone collapsed."

The BBC's Damian Grammaticas
"A criminal investigation has already begun"

Press points finger of blame
16 Feb 04  |  Europe
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14 Feb 04  |  Photo Gallery
Rector charged over Moscow blaze
03 Dec 03  |  Europe

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