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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 January 2006, 10:07 GMT
Hopes fade after Poland collapse

Hopes of finding any more survivors are fading after a building collapsed in southern Poland, killing at least 65 people, rescuers said.

Some 500 people were in the trade hall in Katowice for a pigeon exhibition when the roof caved in - possibly under the weight of snow - on Saturday.

Among the dead and some 140 injured were Poles, Belgians and Germans.

President Lech Kaczynski has announced a day of mourning for what he called a "catastrophe" unprecedented in Poland.

Rescue official Leszek Suski told a news conference: "With such a low temperature the chances of finding someone alive are slim but we still have hope."

'Panic and chaos'

A central section of the roof collapsed at 1730 local time (1630GMT). A second collapse happened more than an hour later, during rescue operations.

We are going to keep our hope until the end
Jaroslaw Wojtasik
Katowice firefighters' spokesman

Hundreds of rescuers with sniffer dogs worked through the night as temperatures dropped to minus 15C.

Rescuers have been blowing warm air into the wreckage to increase the chances of survival for those still inside.

Police said people had been telephoning from inside on mobile phones, reporting dead bodies near them.

But no-one had been found alive since 2100 GMT Saturday.

Officials confirmed that at least one child was among the dead.

"The dogs have located 13 places where there are bodies but it is impossible to determine how many people will be found there," local fire brigade official Kazimierz Krzowski.

Survivor's story

One of the survivors described the scenes of panic and chaos immediately after the roof collapsed.

I am now very worried about the other buildings here made of similar construction, in particular the shopping centres
Mark Fordham, Katowice

"We heard something snap like a match breaking and people started to panic right away, realising what was happening," the unnamed survivor told private television TVN24.

"I started to run and something fell on me, others trampled over me and I was able to crawl out on hands and knees," the survivor added.

Many people, some clutching head wounds, milled around ambulances.

Some of the victims were in serious or critical condition, officials said.

New building

The cause of the disaster is not yet certain.

Jacob Parade, a journalist with TVN24 in Poland, told the BBC the collapse was a surprise as the hall - built in the late 1990s - was so new.

The fire brigade and police said the weight of snow on the roof was responsible.

But the building's manager told Polish TV that snow had been regularly cleared from the roof.

This was backed up by at least two people in BBC interviews.

One woman whose father had been at the scene, Sascha Kraus, said there had been little snow on the roof.

A wounded man lies under the collapsed roof
Hopes of finding more survivors are fading, officials say

Graf Pietro also told the BBC the snow on the roof was not heavy and that those responsible for clearing it had done a good job.

Another theory is that the extreme cold caused steel beams to fail.

There were more than 120 exhibitors from countries across Europe at the Pigeon 2006 fair.

Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz arrived at the scene, pledging a public inquiry into the accident.

Fifteen people died on 2 January when the roof of an ice rink collapsed under heavy snow in the southern German town of Bad Reichenhall.

In December, at least 14 people, 10 of them children, were killed when a roof collapsed at a swimming pool in the Urals region of Russia. Snowfall was again thought a possible cause. Simpson column:

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See inside the devastated trade hall in Katowice

Your pictures: Europe's freeze
27 Jan 06 |  In Pictures
Country profile: Poland
10 Jan 06 |  Country profiles

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