The death toll from the collapse of the roof of a supermarket in the Latvian capital Riga has risen to 51 as more bodies are recovered from the rubble.
There were a large number of customers in the building on Thursday evening when a big part of the roof collapsed. Firefighters who rushed to save the people were then crushed by a second collapse in the flimsy structure.
“Every hour, air temperature, high air moisture – they are factors that reduce possibility to find some survivor. But, of course, hope always remains,” said Armands Plorins, chief of emergency ambulance service on Friday.
Latvian police announced that they had launched a criminal investigation into a suspected violation of construction law.
“We have three versions [lines of inquiry] and all of them are connected to violation of construction law,” said state police spokesman Toms Sadovskis.
At least 35 people were injured and 28 of them, including several firefighters, were hospitalized, Sadovskis stated.
“We will be working through the night and at least until morning,” he added. “As long as there are potentially people inside, we will keep going.”
Meanwhile, the Latvian government declared three days of national mourning beginning on Saturday.
Latvia’s Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis described the collapse as a national tragedy and promised to take necessary measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“It is quite clear that we have to take necessary steps to avoid tragedies like this one happening again. We are going to take more severe control measures in construction sites of this kind, especially in sites that are currently under construction or the construction is planned to start soon,” Dombrovskis said.
The Riga supermarket was built in 2011 and won the yearly award of one of the country’s top three architecture projects. At the time of the collapse, a roof garden was being constructed on top of it.
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