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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 23:02 GMT
Race against time at German rink
Wide view of the collapsed building and rescue work

Emergency crews are working through the night with heavy lifting equipment to shift debris at a collapsed ice rink in Germany, where 11 people have died.

Officials in the Bavarian town of Bad Reichenhall called off the search for survivors until morning because of fears one of the walls could collapse.

A woman and three children are believed to be trapped under the rubble, hours after the roof caved in on Monday.

"We remain hopeful," local fire chief Rudi Zeif said.

Young victims

Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber toured the site on Tuesday, describing the scene as "shocking, I've got no words for it".

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.

Map showing location of Bad Reichenhall

Of the estimated 50 people at the rink at the time, more than 30 people were injured, and more than 10 are still in hospital.

Initial reports suggested the roof caved in after heavy snowfall, but local officials said the roof had been examined on Monday and that the amount of snow was below the building's limit.

Nonetheless, town officials had planned to close the rink at the end of Monday, the Associated Press news agency reported. German police have begun an official enquiry into the accident.

Candlelight vigil

Emergency crews had been digging by hand and using trained dogs to search for survivors in the rubble.

However, their work was suspended after the walls of the collapsed rink began to tilt inwards, threatening to fall on them.

Candlelight vigil in Bad Reichenall
Residents and rescue workers gathered to remember the dead

Officials said the decision was a difficult one, but the only responsible thing to do.

However, with more snow falling and temperatures dropping, hope is dwindling that rescue workers will find any survivors, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes at the scene.

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

As night fell on Tuesday in the spa town with a population of about 15,000, several hundred people gathered in front of the town hall for a candlelight vigil.


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

I was traveling along the road and saw many many emergency craft. I was curious so I followed them. I was astonished when I arrived at their destination. The roof of the skating rink had collapsed. I watched as people milled about outside clearly in shock. I heard screams of pain from both inside and out. It was horrible.
Fredrick Koch, Munich, Germany

As we are near Bad Reichenhall, our rescue teams also came to help and search for the missing people. Also in Salzburg three buildings collapsed. But we had luck and nobody was in it. As I am a Icehockey-Fan, I was yesterday at the game between Salzburg and Linz. Our ice rink also was closed the whole afternoon. But then the fire department cleared the blanket from the snow. We made a "minute of silence" for the dead people in Bad Reichenhall. The whole of Austria is with you.
Thomas Esterer, Salzburg, Austria

We were close by in Austria. Massive snowfall. Snowing for days on end. Very heavy, fat snow. The farmer came over to push the snow from our friend's roof - too much too heavy.

The weight of snow on a big flat roof must be enormous. It must be a contributor and someone must have been aware?
Garan Goodman, Munich, Germany

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BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the rescue effort before it was suspended



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


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