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Last Updated: Friday, 24 February 2006, 02:03 GMT
Moscow roof collapse kills dozens

At least 56 people were killed when the snow-laden roof of a Russian market collapsed, officials say.

Dozens more shoppers and staff were hurt when the roof of the busy Basmanny food market fell in early on Thursday.

Rescuers battled to free the injured throughout the day. The search continued under lights overnight, with diggers clearing piles of rubble.

Officials believe thick, wet snow may have triggered the collapse. A criminal negligence probe has been opened.

President Vladimir Putin has called for a "detailed inquiry".

Listening for voices

Traders were preparing for business on what was a national holiday in Russia, when a 21,530 sq ft (2,000 sq m) section of roof collapsed.

It is thought there were up to 150 people in the building, although some reports say as many as 300 use the market at night.

My three sisters are dead and so is the man I was working with
Oktay Salmanov, survivor

Rescuers used heat guns to blow hot air into the wreckage to try to protect survivors from the cold.

Emergency workers used pick-axes to cut holes, occasionally ordering silence to listen for voices.

Some survivors were heard knocking and crying for help, as well as using their mobile phones to guide rescuers.

Many of the traders are believed to be from the former Soviet republics in the Caucasus and Central Asia.


"Everything suddenly caved in," Oktay Salmanov, a market trader from Azerbaijan, said.

"I was standing near the main entrance and that's why I managed to get out in time. But my three sisters are dead and so is the man I was working with."

Herb seller Halik Mamedov was sleeping under a staircase in the market.

Survivor pulled from the rubble in the Moscow market roof collapse

"I woke up. There was some sort of big bang and everything was in darkness," he said.

There were emotional scenes as relatives gathered to hear lists of the dead and injured being read out by emergency workers.

Moscow prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev said investigators were looking into three possible causes for the tragedy: a build-up of snow, lack of maintenance or design faults in the building.

The market was built in the 1970s.

The architect, Nodar Kancheli, was quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency as telling a Moscow radio station that the roof was not designed to bear heavy snow.

Mr Kancheli also said an extra platform for additional market stalls had been built and attached to the roof and "the construction of the roof did not plan for this".

Heavy snowfall is believed to have been the cause of a number of roof collapses in Europe this winter.

Sixty-five people died in the southern Polish city of Katowice in January, when the roof of a trade hall hosting some 500 people caved in.

In Bad Reichenhall, southern Germany, the roof of an ice rink collapsed at the beginning of the year, killing 15 people, including two children.

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