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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 17:18 GMT
German rescuers halt rink search
Wide view of the collapsed building and rescue work

Emergency workers have had to call off their search for more survivors at a collapsed ice rink in Germany where 11 people have already died.

Officials in the Bavarian town of Bad Reichenhall said it was too dangerous to continue because of fears one of the walls could collapse on rescue workers.

Eleven bodies - including those of six children - have been removed from the rink since the roof caved in on Monday.

Four people are missing in the tragedy, the cause of which is unclear.

Officials said the search should resume with the arrival of extra heavy lifting equipment, expected at around 1800 (1700GMT).

Initial reports suggested the roof caved in after heavy snowfall, but the authorities have since backed away from that explanation.

Urgent questions

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber said now was not the time to apportion blame.

"That's for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow," he said, stressing that the priority was caring for the survivors and the victims' families.

The chairman of a local ice hockey club claimed that a training session had been cancelled after officials warned that the building was unsafe following snowfall. The claim sparked local outrage, but the exact nature of the warning received is not clear.

A full investigation was being carried out as rescue workers continued to dig on Tuesday.

Map showing location of Bad Reichenhall

Some 500 firefighters, police and soldiers have been involved with the effort, and a state of emergency has been declared in the area.

Six cranes are being used to lift debris, but their work has been hampered by fears about the structural safety of the building.

The state of an outer wall is causing particular concern, and if it continues to lean in further "we really will have problems", one local official said.

George Grabner, a local councillor in the region, told the Associated Press news agency a survey showed that "it would be irresponsible for more rescue workers to go in".

Local schools are still on holiday and many children and families had gone skating on Monday.

Six children aged between nine and 12 were among the bodies retrieved. A 35-year-old woman was killed, as well as two teenagers. Two further bodies were carried out of the building early on Tuesday afternoon.

Late on Monday evening, a six-year-old girl was pulled alive from the wreckage of the building, suffering mild hypothermia. No one has been found alive since.

In total, 18 people were taken to hospital, and 16 emerged from the rink unscathed.

Are you in the area where the accident happened? Send us your eyewitness accounts.

The comments published below reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

My heart goes out to the friends and family of those injured and killed in this horrible accident. America is thinking of you.
Greg, Portland, OR, USA

We were travelling north on the autobahn towards Munich from Austria yesterday (02/01/06) and could not believe the amount of ambulances. Fire and rescue teams travelling towards Austria it was obvious that something serious had happened.
Martin Hill, Nottingham, UK

I live about 6 miles away. My 13 year old son went skating there on Sunday with his friend. On Monday his friend went again with his wee brother, my son declined as he was playing with another pal. As far as I know the wee brother hasn't been found yet. Also another of my son's pals is still missing. Just returned home from site as my son wanted to see it. He's quieter than normal and I think that it's affecting him inside. We were also interviewed by a reporter from "Spiegel" who had overheard us talking. My son told me on Sunday that there drops of water at many places and they were freezing into little ice mounds. Also some time last year there was a big market in the rink and some sellers complained to the council that some of their produce was soiled due to water dropping from the roof.
Gordon Connor, Anger, Germany

We have been on several ice-dance courses at the lovely Bad Reichenhall rink, and are so very shocked and saddened by what has happened. My husband joins me in sending our sincere sympathy to the town of Bad Reichenhall, and especially to the families of the victims.
Annabel Smyth, London, England

I am an American tourist in Germany, visiting my family that lives in Munich. I was travelling on the Autobahn in the area at the time, returning from a local ski resort near Rosenheim where the snow was torrential and blinding all day. Literally dozens of police vehicles were making their way to the disaster but were severely hampered by the heavy traffic and snow. It took us nearly 4 hours to travel 60 kilometres from Rosenheim to the city of Munich. We were listening to local news on the radio, and police were asking drivers to pull off the road. Additional support was sent from neighbouring Austria, as it was very difficult for Bavarian authorities to navigate the congested roadways. The rest stops and petrol stations were jam packed; cars were just parked in the middle of the rampway, preventing people from getting back on the Autobahn from the rest stops. My Bavarian brother in law said the traffic was among the worst he had seen in 10 years.
Andrew Boetsch, Munich, Germany

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See the rescue efforts at the ice rink

In pictures: German ice rink collapse
03 Jan 06 |  In Pictures

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