Moscow Roof Collapse Kills Some 25; More Missing
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Moscow Roof Collapse Kills Some 25; More Missing


Feb 15, 11:57 AM (ET)

By Valery Stepchenkov and Tatyana Ustinova

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Rescuers at a Moscow water park, where a roof caved in killing at least 25 people, pulled away the last major slabs Sunday but feared more people may be trapped under a jumble of concrete, glass shards and icy water.

Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu suggested shoddy building was to blame for the snow-laded roof crashing down Saturday evening on bathers at the complex of pools and waterslides.

"It's time to stop this chaos and establish control when these kinds of sites are being built," he added, referring to a rush of new construction in the Russian capital.

A day after the collapse, hopes were fading for more people suspected trapped under debris in below-freezing temperatures.

Interfax news agency quoted officials as saying many unopened lockers at the aqua park hinted at more victims than previously thought. Earlier Shoigu said 17 were missing.

The horror struck on a busy evening at the popular new playground for middle-class Muscovites, shattering peace in a city already on edge after at least 40 people died in a metro train bombing 10 days ago.

"It's scary just to walk around the city with things exploding," said a Muscovite named Sveta. "And it's scary to go to these kinds of places, especially since it's not even sabotage -- it's just the construction."

The two-year-old Transvaal Park complex won a Moscow city award as a top investment and construction project in 2002, its Web Site said.

By Sunday evening, rescuers were pulling down the last concrete roof plates still hanging from the remaining walls of the indoor pool complex.

Shoigu said all such roofs in Moscow were being checked.

CHILDREN AMONG DEAD

Interfax quoted Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov as saying 25 people had died, but police said the death toll was 26.

The Emergencies Ministry said between four and six children had died and at least 110 people were injured.

Russian television said the roof gave way over the children's pool. Luzhkov said 27 children were in hospital, five in critical condition. Doctors said most of them suffered severe cuts, some broken bones and shock.

Heat cannons were used to blast the site with warm air to try to keep any trapped survivors from freezing to death. Shards of glass cut the feet of sniffer dogs, hampering the search.

More than 420 people were in the area where the roof, rising up to 20 meters (60 feet) above the ground, gave in.

Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into any possible failure to fulfil "professional obligations."

City prosecutor Anatoly Zuyev told Russian television the park's director, designer and chief builder had been questioned. The state construction agency was to analyze materials used.

The Turkish contractor on the project, Kocak Insaat, was quoted by Interfax as saying it was "shocked and at a loss."

"We have never had a situation of this kind before," Interfax quoted company representatives as saying. Its Moscow office, contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.

Television showed rescuers hauling victims out in blankets overnight, bare, bleeding limbs hanging over the edges of makeshift stretchers, a visual reminder of the scene after the February 6 blast in the Moscow metro.

President Vladimir Putin, facing re-election in March, blamed the metro blast on Chechen rebels. The mayor, however, said the pool roof collapse was "not an act of terror."

"These tragedies always mean there is social tension," said a man named Vadim. "These things happen, perhaps accidentally, but they always happen in precisely these moments. It means there is something unhealthy in the air."



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