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Last Updated: Monday, 30 January 2006, 17:00 GMT
Poland reduces trade hall deaths

Polish officials investigating the collapse of a trade hall in Katowice now say 62 people died - five fewer than they had previously thought.

Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro said the intensity of the rescue operation had led to discrepancies.

Rescuers have not ruled out finding more bodies in the wreckage.

Most of the victims were Polish, but those killed also included six people from Germany, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Poland began three days of mourning following Saturday's disaster in the southern city - which the president called Saturday's catastrophe. Flags are flying at half-mast, as the country tries to come to terms with the scale of the tragedy.

I would like to believe there won't be any more, but I can't say at the moment
Zbigniew Ziobro
Justice minister

The government says the roof may have collapsed under the weight of snow, but a lawyer for the company that runs the hall says the snow had been cleared.

At least 150 people were injured in the hall, which had been hosting an event for world pigeon enthusiasts.

Medical workers have identified 59 of the bodies, including two children.

With temperatures well below freezing, officials have long given up hope of discovering survivors, but have not ruled out finding more bodies.

The owners of at least 20 cars parked nearby are unaccounted for.

Mr Ziobro told reporters that 62 was the confirmed number of dead at this time.

"It is common in this type of rescue operation for the provisional toll to be greater than the definitive toll," Ziobro said.

Shaken nation

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

Television presenters are dressed in black and the state channel has stopped running adverts.

In this deeply religious nation, people have been pouring into churches for comfort and support since Saturday's tragedy, the BBC's Adam Easton in Katowice says.

One survivor at the site on Sunday was desperately trying to find out where his son's body had been taken.

"It was his idea to come to the fair... and he found his grave there," Tadeusz Dlugosz said.

'Construction mistakes'

Heavy lifting equipment is due to begin removing the tangled wreckage.

The focus is already shifting to how the tragedy occurred, our correspondent says.

Government officials have said two feet of heavy snow and ice were on the roof when it caved in.

But Grzegorz Slyszyk, a lawyer for the firm that runs the building, said the snow had been cleared.

Mr Slyszyk said mistakes were made during the construction of the building seven years ago and it was still too early to say what caused the disaster.

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

'Freezer'

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

The death toll rose as hundreds of rescuers with sniffer dogs worked through the night in bitter cold.

A surgeon in charge of a medical team at the site said the sheet metal of the building's remains had acted like a freezer.

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

"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.


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Hear survivors speaking about their ordeal



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


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